The Autobiography of God as Told to Mel Schneider
By Marv Siegel
Ontological Theatre, 131 E. 10th Street (at 2nd Ave.)
(Presented by Slice of Life Theatre Company)
May 22 to June 1
Th, F at 8; Sat at 7 and 10, Sun at 3 and 8
$15; Box office: Smarttix, (212) 868 4444 (www.smarttix.com)
runs 1:40, open seating; www.slice-of-life.org
Reviewed by Larry Litt, May 22, 2003
L-R: Joseph Lee Gramm and Ron Palillo
Does prayer annoy and frustrate God because he's helpless as a new born babe to answer them? That's the premise of Marv Siegel's new play, the Autobiography of God as Told to Mel Schneider, which opened May 22nd at the Ontological Theater at St. Mark's-in-the-Bowery.
God appears onstage in the overweight, Hawaiian shirted and Bermuda shorted American tourister body of Joseph Lee Gramm who brings to God a suffering and love for humanity that can't convince his lovely young adversary and
tormentor LuLu played by brilliantly rubber faced and believably vindictive Genna Brocone.
If God and Lulu's battle over the value of prayer and God's response to it is the serious theme of this play, Mel Schneider's pathetic, sleazy New York life and its various possible endings is the comic relief. Mel, played by Ron Pallilo, the lovable rogue and sex symbol best known to television audiences as Horshak in "Welcome Back, Kotter" is totally committed to his own salvation whether he likes it or not.
It kind creeps up on Mel in the guise of the low cut, and tightly dressed sex kitten Melissa, God's personal stage manager and archetypal perky young theater bimbo. She has a native self reflective bent that is right on, when not self deprecating. Rainey Welch plays her as a lip pursing, finger curling bundle of orgasm and compassion, the perfect combination of traits for self hating Mel's heavenly salvation.
Perhaps because Mel is a bottom feeding, hard nosed theatrical parasite, God selects him to write God's own One God Show which will tell the story of life and death as God sees it. Why? Because God doesn't like the way he's treated, like an all knowing, all powerful, dare I say it, almighty Mr. Fixit. He wants to turn humanity into a self reliant, ever inventive, tool using Home Depot, where people take responsibility for their actions, like curing diseases, ending wars, and the all important busses that always run on time. And if they can't, well there's always the threat of total destruction of civilization as we know it as the supreme being's alternative.
Taken as a parable about God's place in a believer's life when personal tragedy hits, this play serves well as a warning to believers to take up the mantle of activism. However, once you're moved by the sincerity of all the characters in their desires to rely on God for the fulfillment of their desires you realize that Marv Siegel has tackled and revealed one of the great paradoxes and contradictions of the thoughtful life. [Litt]
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Copyright © 2003 Larry Litt
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