Thanks to a divine creative spark, the Human Race Theatre Company is preparing a female-centric regional premiere of Emmy winner David Javerbaum’s irreverent 2015 comedy “An Act of God,” slated Nov. 1-18 at the Loft Theatre.
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Unlike the original Broadway production starring Jim Parsons and subsequently Sean Hayes, the Human Race has uniquely cast a woman as God. Sara Mackie, last seen at the Loft in “Family Ties,” will portray The Almighty in human form as a meaningful heart-to-heart occurs over the course of nearly 90 minutes concerning everything from Don McLean to The Ten Commandments. Alongside Her faithful angels, Michael and Gabriel, She seeks to address a better understanding of this crazy, confusing, topsy-turvy world, particularly encouraging audience participation while setting the record straight with a new crop of Commandments in addition to clearing up a few misconceptions and sharing a few secrets along the way. The New York Times proclaimed the show, “A gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind’s attempts to fathom God’s wishes.”
“My early religious education at St. Mary’s Elementary School did not come close to preparing me to direct ‘An Act of God,’” humorously noted Human Race Artistic Director Kevin Moore. “The nuns rarely even mentioned the Old Testament beyond Adam and Eve. I think they would be stunned by the stories that our ‘God’ shares in our production.”
“Since the premise is that God has embodied an actor, I get to bring a lot of myself to it and a lot of my female self to it,” explained Mackie, whose bubbly stage presence, funny transitions and stand-up comedy finesse captivated at a recent sneak peek. “There is a great sense of play in the rehearsal process, meaning I feel very free to explore the many different comic angles the text allows and creates. I think an interesting thing about choosing to put a woman in this role may be simply the way these words, stories, Commandments, and more may sound or be interpreted coming from a woman as opposed to a man.”
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In order to set the proper mood in the production’s embrace of a feminine God, scenic designer Eric Moore has created a talk show atmosphere complete with a coffee table against the backdrop of a white staircase, spacious clouds and descending light bulbs.
“It’s a comforting space for God to sit and (chat),” said Moore, designing his fifth production for the Human Race.
“Even though the references to God are mostly male, King and Father, we do find great ways to celebrate the fact that a woman is relaying the information from (my) beautiful white gown to the way I talk to the audience in some places and in other subtle ways,” added Mackie, costumed by Ayn Kaethchen and appearing opposite Joshua Levine (the Human Race’s “Hail, Mary!”) as personable Michael and Human Race Resident Artist Scott Stoney as regal Gabriel. “It is definitely an empowering role and one I’m grateful to be trusted with.”
Moore has been a fan of the play since viewing Hayes in the titular role. The material’s biting political humor in particular wasn’t surprising to him considering Javerbaum received 11 of his 13 Emmys as a former executive producer and head writer of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Even though Moore is aware of how much the show can sting, he also realizes the Human Race audience typically enjoys thought-provoking, religious-themed productions.
“This play (advances) our continuing look at religion,” said Moore, staging his 31st show for the Human Race. “Our audience tends to like religious comedy such as ‘Over the Tavern,’ ‘Miracle on South Division Street’ and ‘Hail, Mary!’ The fact that we laugh at the humor (in these plays) makes us human.”
“I think ‘An Act of God’ is an interesting piece and I hope folks will come to have a great time,” said Mackie, a “Daily Show” admirer. “There are some wonderful comedic moments as well as startling sober ones. I think many folks who see the press photos, with The Almighty as a woman, will have already decided what they think the show is about. Well, I think they’d actually be surprised.”
IF YOU GO
What: "An Act of God"
When: Nov. 1-18; 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings; 7 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings; 2 p.m. Sunday matinees.
Where: Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main St.
Cost: $37-$55 for adults; $34-$48 for seniors; and $19.50-$27.00 for students. Prices vary depending on performance date. The Sunday, Nov. 4, 7 p.m. performance is "Sawbuck Sunday" when any available seat can be purchased in person for $10 at the Loft Theatre box office. There is also a limited number of $14 side area seats available in advance for each performance.
Tickets: Call Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630 or visit humanracetheatre.org
FYI: A post-show talkback will follow the Sunday, Nov. 11, matinee; The Tuesday, Nov. 13, performance is "Holy Bubbles!," which begins at 5:30 p.m. and includes free champagne, music and more. For additional information, visit humanracetheatre.org or the Human Race's Facebook Events page.