The Bible has been woefully misconstrued for centuries. Not to mention it’s a tad out of date. Lucky for us sinners, God, in the form of Jim Parsons, has come down from on high to launch an update (“Universe 2.0,” he calls it) in the wispy, exceedingly amusing “An Act of God,” now playing at Studio 54.
Not lost on the Creator is the irony that Parsons is best known for a TV show titled “The Big Bang Theory.” Or that he’s performing in the former space of the most notorious den of iniquity this side of Sodom and Gomorrah. He does fail, however, to mention another note of irony — that God chose to inhabit the body of an openly gay man.
What God does hope to rectify, however, is the senseless persecution of homosexuals, among other misdeeds. In his newly revised Ten Commandments, this goal is covered handily in the second commandment: “Thou shalt not tell others whom to fornicate.”
Jim Parsons stars as gay-friendly God, rebooting the universe with a devilish grin
There are passages in the Bible, God admits, that take liberties with the facts, like the creation of Adam and Eve. Turns out he originally created — you guessed it — Adam and Steve. For the record, he chose the name Adam “to give him a leg up, alphabetically.”
“So anyway, one night I caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep,” God explains. “Fulsomely did I roofie his nectar; and as he slept, I removed a non-load-bearing rib; and from it I fashioned a companion for him… a man, a hunk, unburdened by excess wisdom; ripped, and cut, and hung like unto a fig tree before the harvest; yea, and a power bottom.”
If the role of Sheldon is a perfect fit for the Emmy-winning actor, God’s robes are equally comfortable. It’s no accident that Parsons’ street clothes — a plaid collared shirt, blue jeans, red athletic footwear — peek out prominently from underneath the flimsy white robe (designed by David Zinn), which appears purchased from a discount costume shop. The charming, gifted Parsons is supremely engaging; he has an irresistible way of lobbing zingers and quoting scripture with a devilish grin.
Even God needs a hand now and then. His two “wingmen,” Michael (Christopher Fitzgerald) and Gabriel (Tim Kazurinsky, a “Saturday Night Live” regular in the 1980s), assist with the presentation. The buffoonish angels also offer the chance for God to bark orders and occasionally impart wrath.
The set, by Scott Pask, features a stairway to heaven surrounded by a series of concentric white circles lit with variable multicolored tones courtesy of Hugh Vanstone. The otherworldly effect appears lifted from James Turrell’s 2013 art installation at the Guggenheim, although I saw no credit in Playbill.
Despite the awe-inspiring visuals, Joe Mantello’s staging feels static. For much of the evening, the Almighty is plopped down on a mod, cream-colored sofa, as if chit-chatting with a neighbor who has dropped by for tea. He got away with this approach directing Bette Midler in “I’ll Eat You Last,” but that material, based on true events, registered as juicier and more poignant.
The script, by David Javerbaum, based on his book “The Last Testament: A Memoir By God,” works hard to breathe new life into ancient tropes. Countless comedians, such as Paul Rudnick with “The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told,” which also advocates Adam and Steve, have strip-mined this terrain nearly bare.
Javerbaum has impressive comic chops as the Emmy-winning former head writer of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” Remember Neil Patrick Harris’ manic opening number (“Broadway, It’s Not Just For Gays Anymore”) at the 2011 Tony Awards? Javerbaum wrote that. I’m guessing he also wrote God’s Playbill bio, which urges you to “Follow Him at your local church, synagogue or mosque, or @TheTweetOfGod.” Evidently, he has over two million followers, and counting.
AN ACT OF GOD | Studio 54, 254 W. 54th St. | Through Aug. 2: Tue.-Thu. at 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. | $55-$159 at actofgod.com or 212-239-6900 | Ninety mins., no intermission