There are certain existential questions only camp can adequately address.
For starters: Does God exist? And if so, why is this almighty force so indifferent to human suffering?
Here to answer these and other impossible queries is Joey Bucheker as He Himself, starring in David Javerbaum's unholy comedy "An Act of God," presented by O'Connell & Company in residence at the Park School. The show is effectively a one-man comedy about divine capriciousness and indiscriminate wrath. (Full disclosure: Bucheker is my next-door neighbor. Small town.)
Sure, Bucheker is flanked by two white-clad angels (Dan Morris and Jake Hayes), but it's clear from the opening lines that the stage belongs to him. It's no mean feat to hold onto an audience's attention so tightly for two full acts, especially with source material as tenuous as David Javerbaum's script.
By most measures, Bucheker succeeds. Though his performance was noticeably tentative on opening night, the role provides an ideal canvas for the actor's cutting snark and quick wit -- which he has exhibited to acclaim in his show "Betsy Carmichael's Bingo Palace" and on his podcast "Cocktails and Cream Puffs."
Bucheker's take on God evokes what an exhausted Truman Capote would have sounded like after a particularly annoying day and at least a half-carafe of holy wine. His voice is pitched high, his mannerisms flamboyant in his flowing white robes and his eye-rolls detectable from several miles away. If you ever thought of God as a gleefully vindictive queen, this is your show and Bucheker is your guy.
The conceit of the evening is refreshingly straightforward: God, irked by humans' misguided interpretation of his ancient dicta, is visiting earth to set us straight about a few things. The point of the evening is to unveil a new, sexier list of commandments that attempts to clarify previous misunderstandings about such things as evolution, homosexuality and his tendency to randomly smite people.
Among them: "Thou shalt not tell me what to do," "Thou shalt not tell others whom to fornicate" and "Thou shalt not seek a personal relationship with me."
Javerbaum's writing, to his credit, is peppered with many clever bits among many dated jokes and groan-inducing puns. God sheepishly admits in the second act that he has "wrath management issues" and at one point declares that "faith is a sausage you don't want to see made." He also reveals that the son of God is "the second of my three children, Zach, Jesus and Kathy."
In Bucheker's hands, and under the keen directorial eye of Victoria Pérez-Maggiolo, this show delivers a welcome dose of comic absurdity at a time when we desperately need it.
★ ★ ★ (out of 4 stars)
"An Act of God" presented by O'Connell & Company runs through Feb. 11 in the Park School, 4625 Harlem Road. Tickets are $15 to $30. Call 848-0800 or visit oconnellandcompany.com.