“An Act of God” is a lounge act, complete with drum riffs and backup boys

"An Act Of God," by David Javerbaum, directed by David Saint. Photos by T. Charles Erickson

George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick has chosen for its holiday offering An Act of God, a ninety-minute visit with the Lord and Creator of the Universe played for laughs. While it is often funny, sometimes hilariously so, there are preachy and even maudlin periods that are somewhat off-putting, leading you to think that God as a lounge act needs to work on His pacing.

The situation is straight-forward. God, assisted by the angels Gabriel and Michael, has chosen to inhabit a human body to present to His audience the new Ten Commandments, along with answering some audience questions. As the act draws to its end, God announces His newest achievement, Creation 2.0, and ascends a heavenly ladder to set it into existence.

“An Act of God”at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick stars Kathleen Turner
“An Act of God” at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick stars Kathleen Turner

Director David Saint, after seeing the show on Broadway, decided to mount a production at George Street, getting playwright David Javerbaum’s permission to have God played by a woman. Saint chose Kathleen Turner, the acclaimed stage and screen star, to play a masculine God taking over the body of “Kathleen Turner” without her knowledge. George Street favorites Stephen DeRosa and Jim Walton play the angels Michael and Gabriel respectively. DeRosa’s Michael gets most of the action, fielding audience questions and posing a few of his own, much to the displeasure of a moody, abusive, quick to anger God. Walton seems wasted as Gabriel, acting mostly as an emcee during God’s performance piece.

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But then, there’s Kathleen Turner. She has taken on a daunting task in performing what is almost a one-person show, and while she scores with mordant humor throughout, at the performance I attended she seemed oddly off. While every performance of a show has its share of minor mishaps and flubs, Turner’s performance had way too many verbal missteps, as though the actress were still unsure of her lines. She also seemed a little cautious moving up and down the set’s short flight of steps. One wonders if these can be explained as Turner’s interpretation of God as the ultimate senior citizen dealing with the onset of age-related mental and physical limitations. Still, the audience responded to the actress with prolonged applause and plenty of laughter.

"An Act Of God," by David Javerbaum, directed by David Saint. Photos by T. Charles Erickson
“An Act Of God,” by David Javerbaum, directed by David Saint. Photos by T. Charles Erickson

Timothy R. Mackabee’s simple and elegant set design was beautifully augmented by Jason Lyons’ lighting. Costume designer Esther Arroyo, limiting herself to a palette of white and gold, came up with beautifully flowing robes fit for a deity and classic all-white suits and ties for the two angels.

George Street Playhouse’s production of An Act of God is mostly funny, and the chance to see such a noted actress as Kathleen Turner on stage does not come along often. Those who go will not feel they’ve wasted either their time or their money seeing An Act of God.

An Act of God is being presented by the George Street Playhouse on the Cook College campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick through December 23, 2017. For tickets and information, visit GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org.