God is in the details in a new comedy having its world premiere at Midtown’s Playroom Theater. When the deity himself is booked as a guest on a mega-vangelist’s TV broadcast, the talk soon turns, understandably, to His feelings about the planet. It is one of the charming conceits in God Shows Up that while the minister (convincingly Osteen-ish Christopher Sutton) expects humanity to be chastised for its wickedness, God is instead impressed by man’s ingenuity, with big cities and the invention of music garnering particular praise.
Of course, God’s visit to Earth has an ulterior motive: to unmask the Lexus-driving preacher as a hypocrite – a satirical point that isn’t exactly fresh in 2019. Still, it’s not as if the defrocking of Oral Roberts and Jim Bakker types has dented the coffers of all the blithering yahoos on Sunday morning television. So maybe playwright Peter Filichia – revered in theater-journalism circles for turning his encyclopedic knowledge of musicals into playful essays – isn’t merely hammering an old nail.
That said, God Shows Up is more about epigrams (which land about a third of the time) and sub-Shavian religious debates than plot, so 75 minutes feels like 20 too many – especially after a gender switch and Armageddon-like twist extend the already obvious. Happily, Lou Liberatore (As Is, Burn This) makes an exceedingly ingratiating God – someone we’d want on our side not only as footprints on a beach but toasting us from a nearby bar stool. While he can’t rescue God Shows Up from its more laborious triflings, his buoyancy is a blessing nonetheless.
Staged by Christopher Scott, God Shows Up runs Jan. 31 to Feb. 21 at off-off-Broadway’s Playroom Theater.