‘An Act of God’ at Studio 54 in New York City

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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 as The Almighty. Photo by Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
Jim Parsons as The Almighty. Photo by Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

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.

An Act of God is playing at Studio 54 – 254 West 54th Street, in New York City. For tickets go to their box office, or call Telecharge at (212).239.6200, or (800)432.7250, or purchase them online.

RATING: THREE-AND-A-HALF-STARS1.gif

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Richard Seff
RICHARD SEFF has been working in theatre since he made his acting debut in support of Claude Rains in the prize winning DARKNESS AT NOON, and he agreed to tour the next season in support of Edward G. Robinson, which took him across the nation and back for nine months. When it was over and he was immediately offered another national tour with THE SHRIKE with Van Heflin, he decided to explore other areas, and he spent the next 22 years representing artists in the theatre as an agent, where he worked at Liebling-Wood, MCA, eventually a partnership of his own called Hesseltine-Bookman and Seff, where he discovered and developed young talents like Chita Rivera, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Ron Field, Linda Lavin, Nancy Dussault and many others. He ultimately sold his interest to ICM. When he completed his contractual obligation to that international agency, he returned to his first love, acting and writing for the theatre. In that phase of his long and varied life, he wrote a comedy (PARIS IS OUT!) which brightened the 1970 season on Broadway for 107 performances. He became a successful supporting player in film, tv and onstage, and ultimately wrote a book about his journey, SUPPORTING PLAYER: MY LIFE UPON THE WICKED STAGE, still popular with older theatre lovers and youngsters who may not yet know exactly where they will most sensibly and profitably fit into the world of show business. The book chronicles a life of joyous work working in a favored profession in many areas, including leading roles in the regional theatres in his work in Lanford Wilson's ANGELS FALL. His last stage role was in THE COUNTESS in which he played Mr. Ruskin for 9 months off Broadway. Five seasons ago Joel Markowitz suggested he join him at DCTheatreScene. His accurate and readable reviews of the New York Scene led, when the time was right, for his joining DCMetroTheaterArts to continue bringing news of the Big Apple's productions just to keep you posted. He is delighted to be able to join DCMTA and work with Joel and hopes that you like what he has to say.