by Cory Conley · June 11, 2015
Tim Kazurinsky, Jim Parsons, Christopher Fitzgerald | Jeremy Daniel
Studio 54 is becoming a summer home for TV star Jim Parsons.
Back in 2012, Parsons flew in from Hollywood for a few hot months to star in Harvey, the 1944 play by Mary Chase about a man with a six-foot-tall rabbit for an imaginary friend. This time, in An Act of God, he’s playing, well, God--- or, to be specific, the toga-clad body of Parsons temporarily possessed by the Almighty. (“In the desert, I appeared as a burning bush. On Broadway, I appear as Sheldon Cooper. Know thy audience.”) And he has quite a few things on his mind.
Tonight, the Supreme Being will reveal a new Ten Commandments, having decided that all the bitterness and hatred in his name (“all of which I found very flattering”) can be avoided if only he could speak to us directly. With the assistance of two archangels, Gabriel and Michael, God uses his evening at Studio 54 to clarify many of the common misconceptions, inaccuracies, and absurd prejudices that have grown up around the act of believing in him.
It turns out we got a lot of things wrong. The Garden of Eden originally housed Adam and Steve, for example, until that lovely paradise was shattered when the snake came along with the “Knowledge that Your Lifestyle is Sinful.” As for Noah? He didn’t bring a pair of every type of animal on board the ark; of course not. He brought on two cocker spaniels named Sparky and Pillow. As God points out, “Belief and faith are no excuses for abandoning sound judgment. Creation in six days, talking snakes, men living 969 years… those things make logical sense. But ‘two of every animal?’ Cuckoo.” Don’t even get him started on Job.
One problem with writing about An Act of God is that it’s awfully hard to describe without tons of direct quotations, also known, in this case, as “spoilers.” It’s essentially a long comic monologue delivered by Parsons, roughly akin to a structured stand-up comedy act; why listen to someone tell you about it when you could hear the whole thing for yourself? All you really want to know beforehand is whether it’s funny.
And: well, it’s decently funny. The script, written by D.J. Javerbaum and based on a book he wrote, has a lively, amiable style that’s reflective of the work Javerbaum did as a writer for both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. That can be both an asset and a limitation; episodes of Colbert and The Daily Show, after all, are comprised of roughly fifteen minutes of scripted content, not including interviews and commercials. Stretching that sensibility into a broad ninety-minute Broadway comedy format proves no easy task, and Javerbaum has written lines that, for me, prompted far more polite, appreciative smiles than gut-splitting guffaws.
That’s partly because the big joke is crystal clear from the beginning: God’s a modern, fallible, wisecracking deity who’s made lots of mistakes and has lots of snarky opinions. His new “commandments”--- all drawn from a moderate/liberal/agnostic (and thoroughly American) perspective--- are unlikely to prompt any sort of political or religious soul-searching in any of its viewers.
But I suppose none of that is really the point. After all, it’s summer, and Parsons has a few months off from shooting The Big Bang Theory, so why not just have a bit of fun? It’s a juicy role, and he gobbles it up with gusto. After seeing An Act of God, I confess that I’ll have trouble imagining God speaking in anything but a sassy Texas twang. That’s certainly an achievement in itself.