October 25, 2017
Anyone who has seen his work knows that John Stillwaggon is handsome, talented and versatile. But divine? Ordinarily, that would be a stretch, unless you've seen him as God in the wild and crazy comedy An Act of God (2012), now on stage at the Sheldon Vexler Theatre. Penned by multiple Emmy winner and former “Daily Show with Jon Stewart” writer David Javerbaum, it is drawn from his now-defunct feed @The Tweet of God and his book The Last Testament: A Memoir of God.
It seems that the Almighty can assume the
persona of anyone, so when He decided to
chat with San Antonians, he became Mr.
Stillwaggon. And he is a decidedly boastful,
narcissistic, talkative and sometimes petty
jokester at that, until he occasionally loses his
temper and pitches not only a fit but also a
few thunderbolts. Most of the latter are
hurled at the Angel Michael (Tyler Keyes),
one of two wingmen, and a sort of
philosopher and questioner. When he asks
such things as whether or not He answers
prayers or why there is so much evidence of
evolution, God becomes enraged and smites
poor Michael's wings.
The other wingman is the Angel Gabriel
(Michael Howard), who stands at a podium
and reads passages from the Bible (the
original Gutenberg, of course) to help
illustrate what God is talking about.
Director Dylan Brainard keeps things
running smoothly, but clearly stepped back to
allow God to move in His own mysterious
ways. And Mr. Stillwaggon does, with wit and
charm, a whopping ego and keen comic
timing. Because God uses more than a few
expletives, we suspect, by the way, that some
of the script's running monologue was
adapted in favor of linguistic and political
correctness. However, we learn a lot from His
verbal and physical meanderings back and forth from His perch on a white loveseat.
Who knew, for example, that Adam and Eve
were originally Adam and Steve, and that the
serpent was gay. Or that He sent a miracle to
us about 40 years ago: Tim Duncan. He also
takes great pride in telling us why he created eclipses – to instill awe and panic, His all-time favorite human emotions.
The primary reason for God's appearance is to inform us of his new-and-improved Ten Commandments. There are the expected (sort of ) such as “Thou shalt not tell others whom to fornicate,” or “Thou shalt not tell me what to do,” such as bless, damn, forbid or save the queen. There are some unexpected ones, as well, brought about because of various changes in culture.
He advocates very wide separation of church and state, otherwise it perpetuates something that is “wrong and wronger.” He claims that he does not influence the outcome of, among most things, sporting events “unless, sometimes, to affect the spread.”
God admits to having made numerous serious mistakes: “I'm not perfect, do not believe in me as in, say, the Cleveland Indians.” He then issues the final commandment: “Thou shalt believe in thyself. You are my best creation and I am your worst.”
Ken Frazier's simple yet elegant set and lighting worked with hand-in-glove efficiency, especially during those Godly temper tantrums.
The one act, 70-minute show is devilishly funny, but not without a few sobering moments that are likely to prompt post-performance conversation. Thou shouldst see for thyself.
By the way, John Stillwaggon takes on an utterly different role in the next Vexler production opening Feb. 10: Hamlet.
An Act of God runs through through Nov.12 in the Sheldon Vexler Theatre at the Jewish Community Center. Call 302-6835.
Tyler Keyes (left) is the philosophical Angel Michael; God appears in the likeness of John Stillwaggon.
Below: Michael Howard is the didactic Angel Gabriel.
Photos by Allison Cornwell
Sheldon Vexler Theatre /An Act of God, by David Javerbaum
Updating those commandments