Jim Parsons was put together with pieces of PeeWee Herman, Jerry Lewis, and James Stewart and the result is a most appealing actor who’s found himself a character very close to the real Jim Parsons.
His face is a tabula rasa which, in repose, can conjure up an entire spectrum of colorful emotions. With his body as accomplice, he can make us laugh at every grimace, every inquisitive glance and provocative stare. He’s kept the sitcom The Big Bang Theory alive lo these many seasons, but he seems indefatigable so he’s managed to squeeze in Broadway appearances in The Normal Heart, Merton of the Movies, The Countess, and at the Houston Shakespeare Festival he tackled As You Like It and The Tempest. He played Elwood Dowd, the oddball hero of Harvey, which made me think he could play slightly sturdier characters in future.
For An Act of God, his current Broadway vehicle, is as refreshing as an ocean breeze, but it’s more of a one-man monologue than it is a play. Written by David Javerbaum, head writer for Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, and directed by Joe Mantello, it’s got dozens of one-liners that tickle, and it takes pot shots at just about everyone – Mormons, Jews, Gays, self-righteous right wingers, and if you listen closely, just about everyone and everything else on God’s green earth.
Parsons is playing God himself, swathed in a smart white toga, which covers his sneakers and sporty slacks, indicating God is a regular fella, one of us, for after all he did create us “in his own image.” He has two sidekick angels with him, Gabriel and Michael, but their use is only to feed him questions, pretending they are from us, the audience, and to announce each of the (slightly revised) ten commandments. He takes great exeption to the myriad misconceptions interpreting some of them, and sternly takes us to task for taking liberties. Gabriel also reads from the bible to him, and many a familiar phrase is kicked around to show us how adolescent and self-serving mankind has been through the ages.
When asked what he thinks of evolution, his expression speaks volumes. His views on marriage are bizarre and he has little patience with little children. He gives us his views on Noah and his ark, on Mrs. Noah, on Abraham (whose wife bore a son when she was in her nineties), and on why he had to create the lady Eve; and he sets us straight on how she followed Steve as the third human he fashioned.
His two assistants are ably played by Tim Kazurinsky and Christopher Fitzgerald, both of whom have had more opportunity in past outings. Kazurinsky was hilarious as one of the Old Jews Telling Jokes and Fitzgerald was a delightful leprechaun in Finian’s Rainbow. Here they are banished pretty much to the sidelines.
I had a good time laughing at the lighter than air performance of Jim Parsons. The stage of the Studio 54 was beautifully filled with a graceful staircase (by Set Designer Scott Pask), and lots of puffy white clouds which turned ominous and dark, accompanied by thunder when called for (Lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Fitz Patton).
The material was really a 90-minute monologue interrupted only now and then by a question or a statement that opened the door to another aria. This would be perfect as a shorter, one-man cabaret for Mr. Parsons.
Jim Parsons’ ability to keep us interested means the show will be a powerful success for a limited run. I hope that when Mr. Parsons agrees to return once again, he might try stretching into something like Macauley Connor (the reporter in The Philadelphia Story, the role James Stewart played in the film) or Albert Peterson in Bye, Bye Birdie. Parsons tackles a song as God, and proves he can handle light fare. I think he’d be swell singing “Put on a Happy Face” from that show.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.