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God Shows Up

  Christopher Sutton                         Photos Andrew Evan Cohen



                      by Deirdre Donovan



Peter Filichia’s God Shows Up is a heaven-sent comedy that gives us a fresh perspective on God in the new millennial.  Directed by Christopher Scott, and with a terrific acting ensemble, it’s a drama that theatergoers of all religions—or no religion—can enjoy.


Here’s the question the play hinges on:  What happens when God chooses to drop in to his creation of Earth after an absence of a couple of thousand years?  Well, Filichia spins it by having God appear as a guest on Dr. Thomas Isaac Rehan’s television program based in St. Louis.  Dr. Rehan is the pastor of The Interfaith Church for You!, and it’s clear he’s on a mission to shepherd God’s faithful, and not-so-faithful, to salvation. 


When the lights go up, we see the televangelist in a brightly-lit television studio.  He’s a handsome man in his late 40s with a stylish hair-cut, expensive-cut suit, and charisma to spare.  He’s the picture of success, a proselytizer who’s not afraid to embrace the things of this world. 


In his opening spiel, Dr. Rehan welcomes his television and in-house audience to his evangelical program with an open-heart: “It’s a very hot day in St. Louis, but in here we’re not just air-conditioned but prayer-conditioned.  We’re not an ice-cream parlor, but we always have great Sundays!” 


Yes, this Midwest Bible-thumper is a cross-fertilization of the late Norman Vincent Peale and Billy Graham, with a dash of the Dalai Lama tossed in for good measure.


Prepare to be inundated by quotes from Holy Scripture.  Dr. Rehan knows the Judeo-Christian Bible as well as his telephone number (that would be 877-DEVOTED).  He can pluck this and that verse from the Bible at will to illustrate a spiritual point or illuminate the profundity of God. 


But Dr. Rehan is hardly provincial when it comes to religious texts.  He can pull wise saws from sacred books from any corner of the globe.  Indeed, this preacher is the epitome of inclusiveness and shares with his congregation that our planet has 4,197 religions to date and that all faiths are invited to listen in to his show and be nourished by his God-fearing message.


Lou Liberatore, Christopher Sutton



The play truly takes off 15 minutes in when God Himself shows up at the studio.  No titanic thunderclap sounds to announce the entrance of the Almighty, however.  In fact, God looks much like an ordinary fellow in his 60s.  He has salt-and-pepper hair, replete with a beard and moustache.  And, in contrast to Dr. Rehan’s up-scale suit, he wears casual clothes:  a pair of jeans, countryish shirt, and camel-colored Timberland-styled boots.  And, oh yes, he’s totally poised as he sits down for a heart-to-heart with the televangelist. 


Although I don’t want to be a spoiler and tell all the surprises in store for future audiences, I will divulge that the play dives into many controversial subjects that preoccupy us in the new millennial:  gay rights, women’s rights, divorce, the God-is Dead movement (Sorry, Nietzsche, you were wrong!), war, the weather (God, like us, can’t do anything about it). 


The real zinger, however, is when female God appears midway through the play, dressed in attractive but casual clothes.  Her gesture on arrival is finessed in “Ta-da!” fashion.  Yes, it’s a show-stopping moment.  And how does this feminized God explain her existence?  Indeed, very matter-of-factly:  “You’ve seen the male; now see me female.  That’s your God!” 


If Filichia’s script is a comic encyclopedic look into the Divine Being, the acting ensemble is quite capable of driving the whole spiritual shebang home.  Christopher Sutton, as Dr. Thomas Isaac Rehan, is a glove-in-hand fit.  Sutton delivers all his lines with conviction and celestial verve.  But what makes his performance truly hum is that we can detect that he’s inwardly winking at his strait-laced evangelical character.  Maggie Bofill exhibits droll humor as Dr. Rehan’s studio assistant Roberta and later as female God.  Last, but not least, Lou Liberatore, as the Almighty, makes the character not only accessible but approachable. 


When it comes to the creative team, all are in synch.  Josh Iacovelli’s coherently eclectic set (lit by Joan Racho-Jansen) is chock-ful of religious pictures, statues, and miniature replicas of famous art works (think of Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling).  Michael Piatkowski’s costumes are spot-on, neither too fussy nor too casual.  And Andy Evan Cohen’s projections on a large screen ideally complement the goings-on.


Is it possible to see God through twenty-first century eyes?  Based on Filicia’s play, the answer’s an emphatic yes.  Our monumental patience for seeing God in the here-and-now is rewarded as we watch His Holiness go toe-to-toe with Dr. Rehan.  Although we might not get all our questions on You-Know-Who answered in this play, it does give us a starting point—and a lot of laughs as well.  Take the “Catch up with Jesus Ketchup,” ”Jesus Loves You” flip-flops, and David’s Wooden Slingshot, which, we are informed, are all available on the internet.


This surreal entertainment, directed with a light hand by Christopher Scott, allows you to see God with decidedly new eyes.  Anyone who drops by the Playroom Theater during its brief run, will be treated to a little slice of heaven-on-earth.


Through February 21st

At the Playroom Theater, 151 West 46th Street, Manhattan

For tickets and more information, visit

Running time:  70 minutes with no intermission.