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Divine laughs with Sean Hayes in ‘Act of God’

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From left, James Gleason, Sean Hayes and David Josefsberg appear in “An Act of God” at the Golden Gate. (Courtesy Jim Cox)

God has landed in San Francisco, and he’s got issues.

In “An Act of God,” a weary, exasperated, and, yes, wrathful Supreme Being comes down from heaven to rewrite the Ten Commandments.

Played by the irresistibly funny Sean Hayes, best known as Jack McFarland on TV’s “Will and Grace,” this divine presence appears before a towering staircase leading to a celestial vortex. Sporting flowing robes and flanked by two archangel sidekicks – “my wing men,” he says – he settles in on a white couch to air his grievances, correct misconceptions, and spout some “depthless profundities.”

As he tosses off one-liners and rim shots with otherworldly ease, it all feels like a talk show in heaven.

Written by David Javerbaum and directed by Joe Mantello, this snappy, sure-fire 90-minute comedy, which opened Thursday at the Golden Gate Theatre as part of the SHN Broadway series, yields a laugh-out-loud confrontation between the Almighty and the human subjects he created.

As it turns out, there’s a lot to clear up. Right off the top, there’s the misunderstanding about the Garden of Eden. As God explains it, he created Adam and Steve; Eve was an afterthought. Take that, gay-bashers – in His eyes, we are all equally smite-able.

Then there are Biblical figures such as Cain and Abel (who died of a pre-existing condition), Noah and his wife, Nameless (two of every animal on the ark? No way), followed by a rueful remembrance of Jesus (“It was my duty to support him in whatever career path he chose,” says God.)

Still, most of God’s problems come down to us — the way we plague him with endless prayers, fail to catch his exalted meanings, and constantly invoke his name during sex.

These, and our other shortcomings, bring out his “wrath management issues.”

In hilarious moments of audience interaction, assisted by David Josefsberg and James Gleason as the beleaguered archangels, God’s reactions recall the scorn of Dame Edna, another higher power who belittled her audience in this city just over a year ago.

Hayes, stepping into the God role originated on Broadway by Jim Parsons, nails each bit with pinpoint timing. Glib and hyper, petulant and slyly self-aggrandizing, he delights in tearing down celebrities, but talks like one himself: “I’m an established, well-respected brand,” he insists.

So it’s hardly surprising when this one-man — oops, “one-God” — show winds down with a pitch for His merchandise (“It would be a sin not to buy that stuff,” he says) and a feel-good song. God may be so over us, but he still craves our love.


REVIEW

An Act of God
Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sundays; closes April 17
Tickets: $45 to $150
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

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