Theatre B brings satirical look at faith in ‘An Act of God’
Theatre B will present "An Act of God" from Nov. 25-Dec. 17.
Between the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, cookie exchanging, traveling, reveling and resolution-making, it’s easy to forget the real reason for the season, which is to celebrate baby Jesus and the God who created him.
Theatre B invites audiences to reflect on ideas of faith in David Javerbaum’s hit play “An Act of God,” which runs Nov. 25-Dec. 17.
In the performance, God decides to rewrite The Ten Commandments after she’s decided humans have done enough damage over the millennia.
Set in the style of a 1970s late-night comedy, the show stars Theatre B ensemble member Pam Strait as God, Aimee Klein as Michael and introduces Ayden Smith as Gabriel. Carly Willoughby runs the show as stage manager.
The show premiered on Broadway in New York back in 2015 and starred Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory” fame as God (actor Sean Hayes also played the part). Since then, “An Act of God” has become a crowd favorite on stages that favor thought-provoking subject matter, as local house Theatre B tends to do.
New York Times critic Charles Isherwood once described the play as "A gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind’s attempts to fathom God’s wishes through the words of the Bible and use them to their own ends.”
Local improv and stand-up comedian veteran Scott Ecker directs the show and hopes his interpretation of it resonates with audiences in a funny and relatable way.
“Because Javerbaum wrote for late-night, I interpreted the script as written by someone with late-night writing experience,” Ecker said. “The whole aesthetic and setting is a way to bring those discussions down to a relatable level. You can walk in, see the set, it’s not intimidating, and then it’s just goofy and fun.”
Strait, whose performance as God has her speaking onstage for 90 minutes during the show, said she believes this is one of Theatre B’s best performances to date.
“It’s smart. It’s funny. It’s a blast,” she said. “It is a seriously funny show, but it has real heart. I think people will really connect.”
Strait added that while the play isn’t holiday-themed, per se (there is one mention of Christmas), “It’s redemptive, because we feel that is part of the holiday. Redemption is a major theme,” she said.
Ecker said he’s particularly excited about taking advantage of Klein and Smith’s musical backgrounds for a unique finale to the show.
“One thing we were able to do with Aimee and Ayden’s characters (Michael and Gabriel) was that we were able to add in their musical talents. Because we’re doing it in the style of a live studio audience, they’re able to bring their instruments and backup vocals and sound effects to the stage,” Ecker said.
Klein and Smith are both professionally trained musicians.
“The song that we have as our finale was really open to broad interpretation,” Klein said. “I think we were able to create something that’s fun and gives it that quirky but touching feel for the finale.”
Smith, a relative newcomer to the local theatre scene (he moved here to study drama at North Dakota State University), debuts as Gabriel the angel, a role he’s looking forward to playing because of the light mood it casts on difficult subject matter.
“Aimee and I both were able to contribute to the live aspect of the show with our musical backgrounds and how we’ve interpreted it. It really brings it to connect the audience with something when we’re talking about when addressing these at times very difficult subjects. The musical bits certainly help lighten the mood,” he said.
Klein dittos that sentiment. “The character I play is Michael, the angel, and she — or he — is a spokesperson for humanity, basically. So I get to ask a lot of the hard-hitting questions. Not all of them are hard. A lot are pretty goofy, but toward the end I think there’s questions that are raised that have probably crossed everybody’s mind,” she said.
At times, hard hitting. At other times, thoughtful. Almost always funny, “An Act of God” is intended to also invoke just a tish of discomfort. As Ecker said, “I think we’re doing that in a way that is inviting and accessible and non-judgmental. The connection I really have with the script is that it’s something you can struggle with, think about, and it opens up some things that you might not have thought about before.”
David Wintersteen, a founding member of Theatre B and in charge of set design and special effects for the show, said, “We say we are a theatre for the brave and curious. And so I think that this is a show that’s going to appeal to people for whom that is their idea for an interesting night out. If you’re a little bit brave and a little bit curious, you’re going to have a great time.”
If you go
What: Theatre B’s “Act of God”
When: Nov. 25-Dec. 17 with matinees Dec. 4 and 11 at 2 p.m.
Where: Theatre B, 215 10th St. N., Moorhead
Tickets and info: www.theatreb.org or call 701-729-8880
Special pricing offer: Pay what you will Thursday and Friday—suggested donations from $5 to $50 or more. Every Thursday is BOGO; get one free ticket with the purchase of two or more seats.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.