AN ACT OF GOD
AN ACT OF GOD, Darlinghurst Theatre Company at the Eternity Playhouse, 2-25 February 2018. Photography by Phil Erbacher:
An Act of God is a 75-minute tour-de-force for Him (Mitchell Butel) and two arch angels (Alan Flower and Laura Murphy) and that started out in 2010 as David Javerbaum’s parody Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod. It was intended as a marketing tool for his about-to-be published book, The Last Testament: A Memoir By God, but quickly gained a life of its own with millions of followers.
Among the more than 10,000 tweets from on high there was the uncompromising toughness of His comment on the death of the vile US supreme court judge Antonin Scalia. It read simply: “Justice”. And His response to Sarah Palin when she announced she was willing to run for office again – "if that door was opened,” was an equally succinct, “It’s shut.” Similarly, in January 2016, God tweeted – more a promise than a threat – “If it’s Trump/Palin I’m coming down there.” Alas it wasn’t, so alas He did not.
@TheTweetofGod eventually took up too much time – among other endeavours Javerbaum is a 13-time Emmy-winning comedy writer for The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – and he closed it. But An Act of God lives on and arrives in Australia for the first time, appropriately at the old Burton Street Tabernacle-now Eternity Playhouse, and as a heavenly offering for Mardi Gras. This is one hellaciously humorous God.
On Broadway, God described his new earthly form thus: “For lo, I have endowed him with a winning, likeable personality and know of a certainty that your apprehension of my depthless profundities will by aided by his offbeat charm,” to which Butel and co-director Richard Carroll have saucily added that He is, “the three-time Helpmann Award winner,” for local colour. The entire description rings true, however, as this deity is all those things and also an energetic, camp and twinkly God; even when He occasionally employs the pietistic death stare and, briefly, loses the empyrean temper.
Adding a little variety and respite for Himself, the Angel Gabriel (Murphy) handles the Gutenberg Bible and mood music, and Archangel Michael (Flower) prowls the auditorium with a roving mic before going gently rogue and asking pointed questions, but An Act of God is essentially a fast-paced, witty, wicked, corny, high-flown and eventually profound monologue.
Butel, in gold-trimmed white God robes, jeans and red sneakers, mainly occupies a white cloud-shaped sofa furnished with white cloud-shaped cushions set midway up a white stairway to Heaven. The arch angels are clad in similar robes with added wings and all are mic-ed for celestial clarity and FX. All are lit in variously deific degrees of brightness or purgatorial gloom. (Set and costume design Charles Davis, lighting design Katie Sfetkidis, sound design Andrew Warboys.)
Perhaps because God was a touch nervous on opening night and also because the audience, although willing to please, nevertheless took a while to click in to an essentially foreign deity (that is, Broadway-Jewish-smartass) An Act of God was wordily slow to get going. Still, God’s own telling of Creation – with all its shortcoming and infelicities – is illuminating. And His view of the Ten Commandments and where we persist in going wrong is genuinely far-reaching (if someone like Margaret Court or other such “Christians” were listening, that is).
Basically, this God has had it with humanity’s hypocrisy and cant. In a renovated set of Commandments, He says that #3 should be: “Thou shalt not kill in My name,” because although He thinks it’s flattering, it’s also patronising because, “I don’t need your help, I can kill all by Myself.” The new #9 naturally follows on, “Thou shalt not believe in Me.” Reason being: “Your faith will not be rewarded.” You can hear shock and awe break out in Hillsongs all over the country.
It falls to Archangel Michael to ask the Emma Alberici questions (childhood cancer, war, hunger, poverty, slavery and injustice) and it finally provokes God sufficiently to spit out an honest answer: “I’m a jealous, petty, sexist, racist, mass-murdering narcissist – just like you.” And as recovering Catholics in the audience suddenly sit up straight, He adds, “You are my best creation and I’m your worst.”
Meanwhile, however, for all our sakes and for God’s equilibrium, we should consider @TheTweetofGod’s all new 10 Commandments – sent down in 2014 and never more needed than today – 1 Laugh, 2 Read, 3 Say please, 4 Floss, 5 Doubt, 6 Exercise, 7 Learn, 8 Don't hate, 9 Cut the bullshit, 10 Chill.
Recommended – with a wing and prayer.