Regional Reviews: St. Louis
An Act of God
Also see Richard's review of A Christmas Story
Imagine you're at a popular downtown comedy club, but one that's carved from a single, great pearl, and you have your set by Josh Smith, at the Jewish Community Center in Creve Coeur. Imagine further, two eager-to-please angels as sidekicks, and you have delightful Michael Cassidy Flynn and Amanda Wales. Mr. Flynn goes up into the audience to announce commonly asked questions to the Deity, and Ms. Wales recites for Him His list of ten new commandments, which forms the spine of the show. Through all of this, Mr. Knoll bounces terrifically between the Borscht Belt and the Kuiper Belt, from jocular to the other-worldly, in a roughly 90-minute stand-up.
The steady stream of societal observations and modern sensibilities may not shock you, of course, dear reader. But there might be some nice old Orthodox retirees in the "J" audience who could be mildly discomfited by the occasional metaphysical re-framings of the story, and of the Universe, and even the relationship of Jehovah and Jesus. Plus, the questions of whether or not God is somehow a seriously deranged person, or whether there's something greater that's even more flawed beyond Him, are two of the hulking, philosophical Mount Everest's that suddenly swing into view in Mr. Knoll's peripatetic decalogue. It's not a pandering sort of show. Unless you count the angels' awestruck pandering to Mr. Knoll as God.
Of course, I'd love to tell you all the best jokes from the script (and there's a long list of good and even great ones). But why ruin it? Suffice it to say, there apparently really was an "Adam and Steve," and God is actually pretty tired of all of our cumulative, libidinous behavior. He finds the Book of Job to be the funniest in the Torah, but is still astonished by the faith of Abrahamas are we all in this unexpectedly poignant retelling. Once again, intellectual humor gets its full due, as God is amazed to find that simple human obeisance outstrips even his own faith in Himself.
It's just terrific, and I can't help wondering if Mr. Knoll gives such a dazzlingly articulated performance each and every single time (he probably does). But the large number of young people in the audience at the performance I attended, both smart and enthusiastic, couldn't have hurt his performance either. So just in case, let's hope everyone, young and old, sees that it's clearly a new day for the "J".
An Act of God, through December 16, 2018, at the Jewish Community Center, #2 Millstone Campus Dr., St. Louis MO. For more information visit www.newjewishtheatre.org.
The Players (in speaking order):
* Denotes Member, Actors Equity Association