Village Rep's An Act of God is irreverent food for thought 

Divine Intervention

click to enlarge Brad Leon is God in Village Rep's latest production, an adaptation of the book 'The Last Testament: A memoir by God'

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Brad Leon is God in Village Rep's latest production, an adaptation of the book 'The Last Testament: A memoir by God'

It began the way all viable 21st century ideas begin — on Twitter. Comedy writer David Javerbaum — he's written for The Daily Show and The Colbert Report and currently writes for The Late Late Show with James Corden — had an idea for a book, The Last Testament, A Memoir By God. Javerbaum's publicist encouraged him to do some early marketing for the work via Twitter, and a few keystrokes later, @TheTweetofGod was born. The account is no longer active (Javerbaum felt it was time to move on from the medium) but is still searchable, and boasts more than two million followers. That's quite a congregation. The ostensible voice of the earth's creator took to Twitter with snarky snippets like "The problem with 'We, the People' is you, the people" and "I've said it before and I'll say it again: the Bible is 100 percent accurate. Especially when thrown at close range."

An Act of God is a 75-minute adaptation of Javerbaum's book, and, inevitably, a collection of his irreverent 140 character or less tweets. Village Rep's producing artistic director Keely Enright says that Woolfe Street Playhouse likes to end their season with a lighthearted production, "Our last play, Dogfight, was a sweet musical, but it was heavy. This [An Act of God] just came off of Broadway in March. We're lucky to get it. We want people to come into the show with the mindset 'We're going to have fun.'"

Having fun with live theater, being moved by live theater, or simply showing up to watch live theater is something that requires an effort from the audience, especially in today's world of critically acclaimed Neftlix and HBO shows live streaming at our fingertips. "We have a responsibility to do great theater," says Enright, "because if you do mediocre theater there's really good television you can stay at home and watch."

Trust us, you'll want to get off the couch for this Woolfe Street Playhouse production. In An Act of God, Brad Leon plays the sassy, tell-it-like-it-is man upstairs, with obsequious archangels Michael (Robbie Thomas) and Gabriel (Nat Jones) catering to his divine whims. The premise of the short but sweet play is that God, in a talk-show like setting, is announcing his new 10 commandments. For example, commandment No. 2 "You shall make no idols" becomes "Thou shalt not tell others whom to fornicate" and commandment 5 "Honor your father and your mother" is, in Javerbaum's unholy universe "Thou shalt not seek a personal relationship with Me," because, as God tells the audience, "I don't want a personal relationship with you. I'm not good at relationships, except very long distance relationships. I want there to be a large amount of space between you and Me. That's why I put a whole bureaucracy in place. It's called 'religion.'"

It might not be everyone's brand of humor, and Enright hopes that the audience will come to the theater with an open mind, and also a mind that has at least looked up the basics of the story. "There's a lot of food for thought. But at the end of the day it's very tongue in cheek. There's nothing about the show that should offend. You never know what people will like," says Enright, "something that kills in L.A. or New York might not work in Charleston."

That said, just reading the script had us audibly snorting at lines describing the twisted, hilarious reasoning of actual Bible verses, like from Leviticus: "Thou shalt not lie with a man as one lies with a woman." "That's just good advice," says Javerbaum's God, " When you're with a man you can straight up lie, but if you're lying to a woman you need to be more subtle about it."

We don't want to give away the ending but trust us, it's in line with the rest of the script, which is to say, pretty damn funny. Enright says she's excited and nervous to see how the actors and audience will react to the "fourth wall breaking." That's shop talk for when actors, having established the fourth wall (an invisible wall that separates the audience, who knows they're seeing a play, from performers, who do not) "break it" by directly referencing the work they're in or the audience they're performing for. The play will be interactive, with the archangels, or "Genesistants" as God calls them, selecting audience members to ask God questions (the questions are scripted, but the audience reaction is not). In a practice performance, Enright says it was fascinating to see where the jokes landed, based on the audience's age, sex, race, and political and religious backgrounds. Enright says, "The play is David's creation, you don't have to agree with it. It's just for fun." And in a world where we look to the sky, or the ground, for answers and solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems, a little fun feels like a godsend.


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