NEW YORK — In the beginning was the word, and that word (inevitably) was posted on Twitter. When God saw that the tweet was good, it begat other tweets, which begat a flock on Twitter numbering 1.97 million followers. Which begat, of all things, a play.
And that play, brothers and sisters, is the amusing “An Act of God,” starring a droll guy who makes ungodly amounts of money on television — Jim Parsons.
The Emmy-winning star of “The Big Bang Theory” alights on the stage of Studio 54 as God’s vessel in David Javerbaum’s 90-minute comic monologue, which had its official Broadway opening Thursday night. Accompanying him are the archangels Gabriel and Michael, played by Tim Kazurinsky and Christopher Fitzgerald, wearing wings and the pained expressions of divine underlings who all too often have suffered the idiosyncratic wrath of the Almighty.
Wringing yuks from the supreme being is a hallowed showbiz tradition (paging George Burns!). To me, it’s not always comedy gold, but maybe this kind of spiritual horsing around automatically goes more Yahweh than mine. The advantages wielded by “An Act of God” and its astute director, Joe Mantello, are some of Javerbaum’s stinging one-liners and the winningly dry-witted Parsons, who does just fine playing a deity with an attitude. Parsons’s gift for withering contempt is ideal for the playwright’s conception of a haughty heavenly father with communion-wafer-thin patience for an assortment of human frailties. They’re flaws that land on our Lord’s long list of pet peeves. For instance: Everyone has to stop calling out his name during sex!
“An Act of God” grew out of a satirical Twitter account created by Javerbaum, @TheTweetOfGod. Sample tweet: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I regret you as a species.” The play is a long-form diatribe on this point; 90 minutes proves more than sufficient to the task. Along the way, God, telling us he’s deliberately appropriated Parsons’s form for the occasion, uses this corporeal conveyance to lay down a topically updated Ten Commandments. To wit: “Thou Shalt Separate Me and State” and “Thou Shalt Not Seek a Personal Relationship With Me.”
Me, me, me. Javerbaum has some clever points regarding the narcissism of humankind and how this might have figured in God’s creation of us in his own image. This is a God who also dishes on Kanye and the Kardashians (targets that are getting old) and, in one of the better bits, makes a convincing argument for the illogic of Noah being able to fit two of every animal on a boat. There’s something about the weary vigilance Parsons projects that gives compelling freshness to this kind of standard-issue Biblical demystification.
It’s funny, too, when Parsons, with impeccable timing, reveals that God is able to turn off his omniscience so he can enjoy movies such as “The Sixth Sense,” whose ending, he says, he didn’t see coming.
Kazurinsky and Fitzgerald, funny men in their own right, have only minimally taxing functions on this occasion, those being to serve as foils for God’s quips and ministers of his needs: They’re a pair of Ed McMahons to Parsons’s Carnac the Magnificent. As celestial talk shows go, the one Parsons hosts on Broadway will satisfy his fans and provide diversion enough for those who don’t count themselves worshipers of his sitcom.
By David Javerbaum. Directed by Joe Mantello; set, Scott Pask; costumes, David Zinn; lighting, Hugh Vanstone; sound, Fritz Patton; special effects, Gregory Meeh; projections, Peter Nigrini. Through Aug. 2 at Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St., New York. Visit www.telecharge.com or call 212-239-6200. $55-$349. About 90 minutes.