Hannah Wold & Spencer Korcz. Photo: Wayward Actors Company
OH MY GODS!
God by Woody Allen
St. Francis Talks To The Birds by David Ives
Directed by Andrew Mertz
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
Does God exist? The question has been at the center of human identity perhaps since the beginning of sentient thought. Two satirical one-act plays directed by Andrew Mertz address that question on subversive, broadly comic terms.
Woody Allen’s God was published in his 1975 collection, “Without Feathers”. Diabetes, (Hannah Wold), an actor, and Hepatitis (Spencer Korcz) a playwright are struggling to imagine an ending for Hepatitis’ new play. Before long they have broken the fourth wall by inviting an audience member, Doris Levine (Anna Rogers) onstage to help them in the effort, enlisted another playwright, Trichonosis (Greg Collier) and his new machine to suspend an actor playing God (the woefully underused Susan Crocker), and placed calls to Mr. Allen for help.
Eventually, that divide between play and audience is obliterated, with Allen’s fill-in-the-blank references to the city, the theatre, and audience members. The metaphysical leaps are delivered with borsht-belt flavor – Allen’s description of the actors he imagines playing Diabetes and Hepatitis bring to mind Zero Mostel and Jack Gilford, and the allusions to so many famous plays – Waiting for Godot, Rosenkrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, A Streetcar Named Desire, position God as nothing less than a satire of the entire history of theatre.
To go a step further, the play prompts us to contemplate the implication of 2500 years of human imagination; that Art kills God because God was created through Art. Humans control their own fate, so waiting for divine intervention is folly, and everything is a target, including any reviewers present in the audience.
Korcz and Wold attack the stage with relish, and the play works best in the early scenes where they dominate. Greg Collier fits in well with their dynamic, and the rest of the cast all acquit themselves admirably, but Allen’s premise runs out of gas once Hepatitis’ play-within-a-play has gotten underway, a reality the script calls attention to with a call from Allen: “Let’s go…the play is bogging down!”
Also featuring Kevin Butler, Kate Hay, Josh Rocchi, Shelby Simpson, Janice Walter, & Jennifer Riddle. There are others but naming here might constitute a spoiler.
Even more strange and outrageous is St. Francis Talking To The Birds, by David Ives. If the title suggests pastoral spirituality, that illusion is immediately destroyed by the opening scene of two vultures, Mike (Spencer Korcz) and Angela (Kelly Kapp), feasting rapaciously on the intestines of a deceased St. Francis (Greg Collier). At least we hope he is deceased, since, only moments later, he gains consciousness and begins a lengthy exchange with the birds, even rising to his feet to pace about, amused by his exposed internal organs. The three actors bandy the language back and forth with skill and the confidence that it is almost impossible to overplay these roles. Korcz and Kapp have marvelous chemistry here, and Collier gets the child-like innocence/ignorance of Ives’ take on the iconic figure.
Although both playwrights are famous, or in Allen’s case now infamous, these two plays are not often produced, and their choice indicates a particular taste and sensibility from Mr. Mertz. To pair them is inspired, and requires some degree of foolhardy courage. While Ives’ reputation is solid, Allen is a problematic figure now, and God is far from his best work. My guess is it was written for the page more than the stage, and the script is a little dated by the crass sexual politics –although she is given Allen’s typically dense and intelligent dialogue, Doris Levine’s desirability is her most important characteristic, or at least the subject of a handful of rim-shot one-liners. It may be a nod to burlesque tradition, but it carries a lot of baggage now.
But Mertz’ attention to detail and the cast’s energy carry the day. I loved small things such as how Diabetes uses three fingers instead of six to illustrate the numeral 6 (Think about it and it will come to you), while Korcz and Wold are two of the most animated actors around but never overreach. It was also nice to see Ms. Kapp back onstage, another actor who knows how to run with his material.
Both plays benefit from colorful costumes by Katie Hay. We may assume togas are not very demanding (we would likely be wrong) but the subtle differences are worth noting, and the vultures are delightfully realized without sacrificing the innate silliness.
OH MY GODS!
March 15th, 16th, 21st, 22nd & 23rd @7:30 pm
March 17th & 24th @5:30 pm
The Bard’s Town
1801 Bardstown Road
Louisville, KY 40204
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.
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