Anyone who has lived through the concurrent plagues of recent times — or lost someone who didn’t — might be wondering: Where’s God when you need them? (The singular they, God’s preferred pronoun.)
Thankfully, for a limited time, the Almighty is giving a commandment performance in Herndon. An Act of God is the one-act creation of Emmy-winning comedy writer and Twitterverse influencer David Javerbaum (The Daily Show With Jon Stewart). And NextStop Theatre Company’s nonstop racy rendition is hell-bent on raising eyebrows and lifting spirits.
The “ark” of the script spins on footnoting the Scriptures — God’s way of setting the record straight and revising the Ten Commandments because, apparently, something got lost in translation. God illuminates the story of Adam & Steve, attempts to justify the Holocaust, mixes religion with politics and sports, broaches such touchy topics as creationism, gun rights, and abortion, and takes loving potshots at modern-day prophets. (What would Fauci do?)
Playing God, Jacob Yeh is a revelation. With so much riding on his shoulders, this showman is blessed with a limitless range. He moves from stinging satire to officious TED Talk to gay repartee and, just as your sides start to split, descends into reverent, soul-stirring sermonizing about love and sacrifice. Barefoot and with twinkling eyes, Yeh projects a down-to-earth freshness — mostly in the way your mom uses the word fresh.
This is not a one-man show, though. God’s “wingmen” are archangels Gabriel (Evan LaChance) and Michael (Bryanda Minix), who sparkle with wry commentary on their boss’s defensive pleas. Minix mingles with the audience, fielding questions as our spiritual stand-in. When she demands to know why God allows such suffering, we shiver in solidarity. LaChance, as God’s body man, is the custodian of the nuclear briefcase: the Gutenberg Bible. He imbues Gabriel with charming wit and wisdom, also serving as God’s cantor, reciting beautifully from the Book set upon a deus dais, stenciled with “GOD ΑΩ” — alpha and omega, first, last, and everything. That’s just one of the delightful sight gags sprinkled around by properties designer Amy Kellett. And when Minix and LaChance bust a move as God’s backup dancers? Pure rave.
But superstar Yeh maintains top billing, omnipresent in the blackbox space, seemingly taking flight from wing to wing, flexible in white sweats and hoodless hoodie, bouncing off a couch that doubles as his therapy perch — because God is the first to admit nobody’s perfect.
Director Tuyet Thi Pham and scenic designer Evan Hoffmann, however, deliver near perfection. The trinity of actors’ interplay is as tight as a jazz trio. Twin stained-glass windows embedded in a two-toned brick wall are a canvas for lighting designer Doug Del Pizzo and projection/video designer Patrick W. Lord (amen!!!), and assistant projection designer Hailey LaRoe, to dazzle with. Sound designer Neil McFadden’s work is faithfully invisible until BOOM! He amps up the power of God’s authority. And costume design by Paris Francesca, though universally ivory, is layered in personality and whimsy. Pièces de resistance include Minix’s fringed fanny pack and LaChance’s hip-hop kicks.
If, like me, you consider the theater your church, come worship theater done right-eously. I swear, the time will fly by.
Running time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.