Review: An Act of God

Act Of God - Jim Parsons chalice

The setup for An Act of God is that the King of the Universe has come to speak directly to the Jewish people – which is why he’s chosen to appear on Broadway. He’s brought along a new set of Ten Commandments that confirm mostly that a) humans should be nicer to each other and b) they shouldn’t bother him. Jim Parsons plays the deity, and he is the primary reason to see the show, combining the effortless winsomeness he’s known for with a more authoritative edge. His comic timing is razor-sharp as always, made even sharper with the danger of an all-powerful deity slowly realizing something is seriously wrong with him.

An Act of God is the most recent outgrowth of a “Tweet of God” twitter account written by Daily Show scribe David Javerbaum, and it does have the tart-tongued directness of a series of funny tweets. Does this a Broadway show make? Well, Javerbaum is a savvy satirical writer, and has done a workmanlike job of molding this material into something more substantial. He ends up making some very thoughtful and thought-provoking points. Nonetheless, Javerbaum isn’t aiming for the stars here – he’s set out to write a pointed but lightweight satire on organized religion, and he pretty much nails that modest goal.

Director Joe Mantello is every bit as polished a craftsman and artist as Javerbaum, and has dealt with this light piece with an appropriately light touch. He’s passed this lightness onto the design team. Set designer Scott Pask has given us heaven’s posh waiting room with a stairway to greater heights, and Hugh Vanstone’s witty lighting design puts storytelling in the forefront. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

Review: Harvey

There’s always been a soft spot in my heart for Harvey by Mary Chase – I’ve loved the Jimmy Stewart movie from a very young age, and thought the play was delightful since the first time I read it. I’ve spent many years away from the play, neither seeing the film or reading or seeing the play; seeing the Roundabout revival currently on Broadway left me more conscious of the play’s flaws than before, but even more conscious that the play will always transcend those flaws.

Harvey follows Elwood P. Dowd (Jim Parsons), the affable and courtly scion of a rich Denver family, whose very best friend happens to be a 6-foot-3-and-a-half inch tall, invisible white rabbit named Harvey. Elwood’s sister Veta (Jessica Hecht), embarrassed by her brother’s eccentricities, takes Elwood to the local sanatorium, but the doctors, taken aback by her high-strung behavior, commit her instead. Confusion and chaos ensue as everyone tries to catch a man and his invisible rabbit.

Director Scott Ellis showers this charming tale with affection, although it gets fuzzy in the details (which can be very dangerous in comedy). However, Ellis has a firm grip on the pace, which certainly helps, and his work is stronger in the more emotional second act. Parsons has exactly the right kind of guileless wit for Elwood, although he sometimes seems more clueless than polite, which doesn’t quite match up with what other characters say about Elwood.

The play is a little creaky in the exposition and its cartoonish portrayal of psychiatry, but Chase’s unique take on the themes of kindness and eccentricity remains powerful. I still love this play a lot, and this production, if far from perfect, still does this gem justice.

For tickets, click here.