First, let me begin by admitting I am thoroughly biased, and therefore, this entire review should be viewed with all due suspicion.
Yet, I feel compelled nonetheless to spread the word — evangelize, if you will — about a truth reinforced by a sold out audience on Saturday night in the Phillips Hall at First Parish Church in downtown Fitchburg. “An Act of God,” a comedy play now extended to Feb. 4, is unsanctimoniously hilarious.
I am biased for two reasons: I began mentoring the show’s star, David Allen Prescott, when he was still a teenager, deeply interested in all aspects of professional theater production. Also, I happen to be the minister of the church in whose theater this show is being presented. The church is not its producer, but it does receive a fee for use of the performance hall.
Bias aside, I am extraordinarily picky when it comes to theater. Having gone to acting school in New York and worked as a professional actor, producer, director, choreographer, designer, stitcher, and more, during my decades in the performing arts, I am unnecessarily critical of virtually any theater performance. It’s a bit of a curse. And one that often dissuades me from attending the theater much anymore, local or professional.
All this in mind, I recommend to all local theatre-goers and religious naysayers alike to make a point of seeing this show. It’s genuinely fantastic.
First mounted on Broadway in 2015 starring Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons in the title role of God, and revived the following year with Will and Grace actor Sean Hayes in the part, “An Act of God” by David Javerbaum is an act of delightful heresy. I say that as a religious professional with deep streak of the heretical myself.
In this 90-minute one-act play, God returns to Earth to inhabit the body of David Allen Prescott, a local actor, to present His launch of not only a revised Ten Commandments but also a new universe 2.0. We have all been invited to its launch event.
This near-irredeemably irreverent take on the manufacture and functioning of all Creation had the audience in stitches as Prescott, the earthly vessel of the All Powerful Himself, skillfully bedecked a hall filled with cabaret tables, snacks, and BYOB-induced conviviality with a literal laugh-a-minute recounting of God’s career history. Along with a few surprisingly sober and touching moments as well.
Superbly directed by Rick Woods, and featuring a hilarious Bethany Johnson as the archangel Gabriel, and the multi-talented Debbie Moylan as the archangel Michael gone deliciously defiant, with perfectly-timed sound operation by Stage Manager Abigail Brogan, the talent in this small company is evident.
“An Act of God” is all but a one-man show, with only infrequent lines given to the archangels themselves. But true theatrical talent is often best displayed when one needs to remain fully present and yet have little to say. Each eye-roll, wing flutter, and micro-quip is laden with hints at the tiring frustration of an eternity working as the holy sidekicks of the Almighty.
Prescott also designed the show’s sound effects as well as the elegant all-white set, which blends perfectly with the completed aspects of the ongoing renovations of Phillips Hall, and just the right size for the intimate, hundred-seat venue.
It’s the gospel truth that this production is a genuine revelation and would be a grave sin to miss it. (See what I did there?)
City on A Hill Arts’ production of An Act of God’s remaining performances are Jan. 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m., with two added performances on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. Reservations recommended by visiting cityonahillarts.org.