THE BASICS: This 2015 religion-based comedy/satire by David Javerbaum is having its WNY premiere with O’Connell & Company at their Park School home. Victoria Perez-Maggiolo directs a cast of three. The show plays weekends through February 11th. ACT, with its single intermission, runs about 90 minutes.
THUMBNAIL SKETCH: The Almighty (Judeo-Christian version) temporarily hijacks the body of Joey Bucheker, a “short, balding character actor… with a serious penchant for wearing women’s clothing” (his descriptors) to Explain It All To Us. With the help of two Archangels, Gabriel and Michael, God gives us jaunty takes on a lot of (mainly) Old Testament material, all the while presenting us with a point by point revised version of his “greatest hit”—the Ten Commandments.
THE PLAY, THE PLAYERS AND THE PRODUCTION: At the outset, Bucheker’s God is a glib, over-the-top, Vegas type comic, firing off dubious one-liners with a lot of wink, and a definite hint of flop sweat. I don’t know if this was author Javerbaum’s intention, but that is what we are getting on the Park School stage. The problem may be simply that a lot of the would-be clever lines and takes are not all that funny. (Every now and then they are appalling: God, after raving to about the musical Cabaret, “justifies” the Holocaust with the snarky observation: “No Holocaust, no Cabaret!”).
Then something curious and very interesting happens. God begins to let on that there is something seriously wrong with Him. There is more and more of this grim self-appraisal after the interval, in addition to some more somber, and vaguely reverential, New Testament material. The play eventually takes us to a surprisingly dark and lonely place. God and his angels hightail it off the stage, making vague references to the Apocalypse, as God enjoins us with the task of doing better without Him than we have with Him.
The play eventually takes us to a surprisingly dark and lonely place.
This is meaty stuff. When God says to us, the audience: “You were my best creation; I was your worst,” …well, it really gives you something to think about! On the flip side, if you are a traditional, faith-driven, devoutly religious person, AN ACT OF GOD is going to offend you, probably deeply. Caveat emptor!
Joey Bucheker, in the monumental and daunting role of the Almighty, acquits himself quite admirably. And there’s nice, droll support work from Dan Morris and Jake Hayes as the Archangels. The direction is smooth, capable. There are also a few clever costume details.
IN SUM: A curious play, decidedly not of one piece, that gets better and better as it abandons quick laughs for deep dish philosophy. Recommended for the adventurous.
Photos by Matthew Myers
*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)
ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.
TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.
THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.
FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.
FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!