Televangelist Dr. Thomas Isaac Rehan (Christopher Sutton), with more than a passing resemblance to Joel Osteen, broadcasts from a St. Louis studio adjacent to the church’s stadium. (A sizable compound replete with individual wine cellars and swimming pools is some 30 miles away.) Rehan helms The Interfaith Church for You which welcomes believers of any religion. The pastor himself has degrees in several and can quote the Bible on demand (He’s quizzed.)
“We may not be an ice cream parlor but we always have good Sundays…Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil, it has no point…The best vitamin for a Christian is B1…” Sound bite preaching is peppered with aphorisms and donation commercials. Ketchup, for example, has become CatchUp With Jesus-Lettuce Praise and Relish Him—it’s a condiment. Or, for a mere $100.00, buy a facsimile of David’s wooden slingshot “to protect yourself from nonbelievers.” All products appear on screen. To order dial 877 DEVOTED. “So pray and pay (cough) attention to HIM.”
Lou Liberatore and Christopher Sutton
Rehan has received a friendly hand-written note from God requesting air time. Jehovah is his special guest today. “A dose of the Lord is its own reward.” Eschewing out of date white robes, HE (Lou Liberatore) enters wearing jeans, work boots and a thermal shirt as if a regular guy. HE is, in fact, staying at a Holiday Inn. Apparently God stopped communicating because he’s been visiting a sister planet called Serendipity where life is much happier. (HE’s always preferred things in pairs. ) But HE’s back.
Despite the difference in planetary equanimity, God seems delighted with what we’ve done here – music, (enthusiastic performance snippets of songs are entertaining), automobiles, the internet, hammocks, KY Jelly (if sex were just for procreation…), bubble wrap…” Interestingly HE finds no culpability for what we have done or who we’ve become.
Rehan tries to inject blame and the need for repentance to no avail. The Bible, it seems, is full of mistakes. It took HIM 316 weeks to create snowflakes! The Adam and Eve story is guff. People are not innately evil or hopeless. God deftly exposes organized religion and, in particular, his self-serving interviewer.
Lou Liberatore and Christopher Sutton
The first half of Peter Filichia’s play is a clever Saturday Night Live sketch. The second, after God morphs during a devastating tornado/hurricane combo, becomes a polemic, repeatedly driving at the same points.
There’s some good writing here, but the piece is too long and unspecific in its attacks. God knows there are endless issues Filichia might’ve addressed had he kept it humorous and simply grown darker. The eventual reveal might’ve landed better had it been funnier.
Christopher Sutton makes a familiar televangelist. Pitches are effective. A Midwest accent adds credibility. Energy might be a bit higher when preaching and portrayal is without individuality; both these issues are likely directorial.
Lou Liberatore has appealing fun as God with shrewd, laid back presence, creating just the right tone – until part two, when the script dictates otherwise.
Director Christopher Scott manages to keep things moving in confined format. Rehan’s in-your-face address of the (studio) audience, adds dimension. God’s initially mischievous presence creates apt opposition. From the storm on, however, things grow dramatically muddy. (The puppeting is an exception.)
Also featuring Maggie Bofill as the station’s technician, Roberta.
Photos by Andy Evan Cohen
Opening: Christopher Sutton
God Shows Up by Peter Filichia
What happens when God drops in on Earth after being away for a millennium?
Directed by Christopher Scott
Through February 21, 2019
151 West 46 Street, 8th floor