DTLA - The lights blind the eyes. The music swells. God appears. He has jokes. Many jokes.
That’s the set-up for An Act of God, a play that opens Wednesday, Feb. 10, at the Ahmanson Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles. Sean Hayes from “Will and Grace” plays the Almighty who visits Earth to give an updated list of commandments, clarify some points from scripture and deliver holy wisdom. It runs through March 13.
The 85-minute, intermission-less play was written by David Javerbaum, a former head writer for “The Daily Show.” He spun the play, which debuted on Broadway in 2015 with Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory” in the lead role, off his book The Last Testament: A Memoir by God and his Twitter account @TheTweetOfGod.
Los Angeles Downtown News spoke with Javerbaum about religion, audience reaction and the nexus of God and social media.
Los Angeles Downtown News: What was it like going from 30-minute TV shows and 140-character tweets to an 85-minute stage show?
David Javerbaum: The idea for the book came first, about five years ago. My publisher said I should start the Twitter account to promote the book. I was tweeting as God while writing the book and had some success. I have a great joy of working on the stage, taking some of the material from the Twitter account and the book. The majority of the show is new material though.
Q: How have you changed the play for the West Coast tour? Are you updating it for shifts in the news cycle?
A: We’ve made a couple more updates and might throw more in for San Francisco [where it goes after Los Angeles]. I might need to pull back from some of the topical references. I don’t want it to feel like a late-night talk show monologue. We already have a joke about the Iowa caucuses and the larger issues thereof.
Q: Did you make alterations for Sean Hayes taking over the lead role?
A: In both cases we had to find people who had the comic chops, the acting chops, and the endurance and likability to do this. There are very few people who fit that bill and that people would like to see. The show begins with God explaining why he’s chosen this particular actor to embody him. He had good reasons to pick Jim. Now he has good reasons to pick Sean. The show starts with God as Sean Hayes talking about Sean Hayes.
Q: Do you come from a religious background?
A: I’m not particularly religious. I come from a Jewish background. I did some research before I wrote the book, things like reading the Bible, which was the only thing people read for thousands of years. People keep asking me in a shocked way, “You read the Bible?”
Q: You’ve been building up this idea or persona of God for a few years now. Have you seen any changes in how people react to it?
A: No, the people who are going to make fun of it and the people who are going to see it are the same. And the people who believe fondly in Jesus and Christianity are the same. Never the twain shall meet.
Q: I’ve heard that the play gets the audience involved in the show. What happens?
A: We work the crowd. God brings two angels with him, and one of them interacts with the audience.
Q: Have you met anyone who had truly intense or passionate reactions to the show?
A: I think it’s a self-selecting group. The kind of people who would say that I’m going to burn in Hell are not the ones who are going to pay $100 for a Broadway show.
Q: What has surprised you with the reaction?
A: I’m just surprised at how well received it’s been in New York. It recouped its investment in 10 weeks, which is really rare for a show. It’s really exciting. The show moves along, there are a lot of really good jokes, and Sean’s performance is a tour de force.
An Act of God runs Feb. 10-March 13 at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., (213) 628-2772 or centertheatregroup.org.
© Los Angeles Downtown News 2016