If you like your theology served up with one-liners, perky energy (but in a good way) and a hefty dose of what many would consider blasphemy, Arizona Theatre Company has a treat for you.
An Act of God—there's a bit of wordplay going on here—is as cheerful as the vision of heaven that set designer Lauren Helpern has created. It's a short, entertaining take on the spiritual laws that have shaped so much of our culture, particularly our US-of-A culture, and more particularly at the intersection of Judaism and Christianity. According to God the Divine Creator and King of the Universe, these laws need revision. For this reason, the Lord God King of the Universe has taken on the countenance of one Paige Davis, TV personality and host (Trading Spaces), actor and singer and author, who is the epitome of perkiness (but in a good way) with just enough energy and edge to allow us to settle comfortably into the heavenly shenanigans.
God is accompanied by two of Her mainstay angels, Gabriel (James Gleason) and Michael (Max Lawrence). Dressed in white contemporary suits and sprouting well-crafted feathery angel wings from their shoulders, the two are necessary in a theatrical way, but really only tangentially involved with the action (or what there is of it.) They do make the piece a little less like a stand-up act and provide an opportunity for dialogue exchanges, something we sort of like in the theater. Gabriel, a diminutive guy who looks like he could play Truman Capote, reads verses from the Bible, and Michael interviews a few folks from the audience who are wondering about a thing or two and, of course, seldom-to-never get a chance for an almost one-on-one with God. He's a bit of a rogue and presses God several times with questions he has wanted to confront the Almighty with, but his stubborn persistence comes with consequences.
Full of one-liners and puns and silliness, which God seems very pleased with Herself to be delivering, it's not how most of us might envision a meeting with the Almighty. You are less likely to hear harps than the ba-da-bing of a drum roll and a cymbal crash.
Although Moses gets great reviews, the Lord has decided that those commandments have served all well, but now there is the need for some new ones. (She points out that the monument we see on the stage has been reclaimed from the courthouse in Tulsa, Oklahoma.) There are some doozies among this new batch, and she thinks it's important that she deliver them Herself without a middleman.
As She, with Gabriel's assistance, relates the new top-ten list, she gets into just about every issue causing controversy today. From evolution vs. Creationism; from the revelation that she indeed created Adam and Steve (from one of Adam's non-load-bearing ribs) and shows great impatience with how that whole thing has been perverted; to the real story of poor Job; to abortion, guns and Donald Trump—She has something to say. Her commands now include "Thou shalt not kill in my name," and "Thou shalt not 'seek a personal relationship with me,'" complaining that she just cannot stand hearing everyone from athletes to accident survivors giving credit to their "Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" when he had nothing to do with their actions.
She demonstrates a wicked sense of humor, confesses that she initially thought Jesus was making some seriously wrong choices and that, in fact, She harbors doubts about Herself.
Do not fear, however. Her message falls far short of being a sermon. Multi-major award-winning playwright David Javerbaum has plenty of experience with this kind of material, having written for The Late Show with David Letterman and Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Directed by Marsha Mason—yes, that Marsha Mason—the production shows the exercise of a deft hand and a precise understanding of how the show should play out as intended.
Davies is just so charming (which, since she is inhabited by the Lord God, she can keep reminding us of in an act of shameless self-promotion) that it's hard not to enjoy the guidance she delivers in such a light-hearted way. She's able to keep her effervescent charm and ironic tone in perfect balance as she denounces the things that just annoy the crap out of Her.
It's all a bit of fun and a pleasant diversion from the nastiness and tensions of a hellishly oppressive election year. It's not going to change your life, except, perhaps, for the slightly less than 90 minutes you have your audience with the Ultimate Authority. But I bet it'll make you smile, chuckle and laugh outright. And the next time you hear someone beseeching, imploring, cursing, or with righteous certainty invoking divine deliverance or justice served, you might just remember your time in the presence of God Herself and involuntarily smile at what you now know.