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THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF GOD

       as told to Mel Schneider

[THE NEW YORK THEATRE WIRE sm]

 God Tells All in His Autobiography
"The Autobiography of God as told to Mel Schneider"
Directed by Donavan Dolan
May 22 to June 1 (closed)
Ontological Theatre, 131 E. 10th St. (at 2nd Ave.)
Presented by Slice of Life Theatre Company
Th, Fr at 8 p.m.; Sat at 7 and 10 p.m.; Sun at 3 and 8 p.m. (closed)
$15, Box office: Smarttix (212) 206-1515 (www.smarttix.com)
www.slice-of-life.org
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons


 (L) Ron Palillo as Ron Schneider and (R) Joseph Lee Gramm as the deity.

"The Autobiography of God as told to Mel Schneider," presented May 22 to June 1 by Slice of Life Theatre Company at the Ontological Theater, tackles many of the issues that have continually puzzled humanity: Is there a God? What is the nature of God? Does God care about people on this tiny planet? But playwright Marv Siegel treats these hefty issues in such a light and entertaining way that most people will not be overwhelmed by the heaviness of the material.

Ron Palillo (of "Welcome Back, Kotter" fame) plays Mel Schneider, a lawyer-turned-TV writer who is visited by a disgruntled God (the exemplary Joe Gramm) looking for a way to convince people to stop bothering him with prayers he cannot answer.

God convinces Schneider to write and produce a one-God show in which he can address the audience in his con man style. Not only isn't God successful, he also incurs the wrath of Lulu Walker (Genna Brocone), a young believer who prays unceasingly for God's intervention to save her brother, who has bone cancer, from death.

Hardly the stuff of comedy, one might think. But Siegel's dialogue, Gramm's oafish and Palillo's offbeat performances, and director Donavan Dolan's lighthearted yet thoughtful staging all make God seem much more like a kindhearted but hapless boss than a divine presence. God stays at the presidential suite at the Waldorf, goes shopping, presents Lulu with her long-lost favorite toy, and suffers from heart pains.

It's easy to see the resigned Jewish humor in this play, which was developed in part at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan (oy vei, even God has his problems!), as well as the time-honored tradition of sweetening bitter lessons with a good laugh.

"What's ruder than prayer?" God asks, tired of people who want to be waited on night and day.

When questioned, God counters with, "I might tell a parable or two, but I never lie."

And when truly upset, what else can God say but, "I swear to me!"

Dark comedy is always difficult. But Siegel pulls this one off so effortlessly one would never know. Add to this some interesting sound and light effects, and a few unexpected twists, and this is one of the brightest dark comedies you'll ever see. [Simmons]


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[THE NEW YORK THEATRE WIRE sm]

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]

If you have any comments or want to notify me about performances or shows, you can e-mail me at humornet@aol.com.

Copyright © 2003 Larry Litt

 

  New York Theatre Wire

Review - Pauline Simmons

New York Theatre Wire 

     Review - Larry Litt

          

Review: New faces make 'Generations' enjoyableTIFFANY YATES
12:03 AM, Mar 22, 2006

It isn't easy getting older.


Ask poor Edna. She's in her "golden years," and life ought to be smooth sailing from here, shouldn't it?

But her only child, Marcie, is still reeling from a painful divorce, so depressed she's practically mainlining Hershey syrup straight from the bottle. Edna's husband, Norman, is going stir-crazy in retirement, and brainstorming one ridiculous entrepreneurial idea after another (sock puppets!).

And now a new threat has moved in next door — Rosemary DiCarlo, who initially showed so much promise as a great new friend for Edna, turns out to be an old flame of Norman's, and suddenly Edna's defending her happy home for dear life.

That's the premise of Theatre Conspiracy's "Generations Apart," a lighthearted exploration of aging, family dynamics and the labyrinthine pathways of love.

Playwright Marv Siegel is producing artistic director of Manhattan Playwrights and a prolific writer for stage, movies and television. His two-act script is a funny pastiche of layered one-liners, an exploration of the inanities of everyday conversation and the bickering dynamics of couples and families. ("Every interruption is a blessing from above," Edna repeatedly observes during her and Norman's many Byzantine conversations.)

Their affection is evident beneath the nitpicking — maybe because director Bill Taylor has cast real-life married couple Lee and Joe Meyers. As Norman, Joe is a cross between "WKRP in Cincinnati" station owner Mr. Carlson and Cliff Claven from "Cheers," a lovable, slightly ditzy blowhard who belabors every conversation.

As Edna, Lee nicely balances her exasperation with her husband and her underlying love for him — along with her growing panic about Rosemary encroaching on her husband, and her frantic backpedaling after she's tried to fix her morose daughter up with Rosemary's son, Raymond.

Raymond — like Marcie a lawyer, and also like Marcie, somewhat bitterly divorced — finds himself drawn to her despite his initial reluctance at the setup, and the feeling is mutual. That is, until one of Norman's schemes involves defrauding a client of Raymond's, and the two would-be young lovers suddenly find themselves as fervently opposed as they had been attracted.

Taylor has brought two new faces to his stage in Raymond and Marcie. Michael Dunsworth is a relocated New York actor who bears a striking resemblance to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin's" Steve Carell, a tall, handsome leading man with a lovely, centered presence onstage.

As Marcie, displaced Kentuckian Laurie Genet Preston does a nice job of transitioning from her bitter pouting and sulking to a burgeoning attraction for Raymond, to a righteous defense of her parents. The chemistry is excellent, bubbling just under their rancor.

Patricia Clopton has a delightful turn as the kindhearted, well-intentioned former flame Rosemary; and John Brothers is her boisterously comic, ardent Romeo, Norman's best friend and self-described retired "sock man," looking like the Ricola spokesman in knee shorts and one ridiculous set of hosiery after another.

But Stephen E. Hooper threatens to almost silently steal the show in his one scene as the ancient Rabbi Titlebaum, his mouth gaping alarmingly open as he repeatedly drifts off to sleep. Moments later, Hooper transforms into an equally funny judge, mediating between the feuding young lovers with Zen-like chants of calm.

The only real handicap of the playful show is the pacing. Too many moments drag, and the tedium of Norman's endless dithering is accentuated by the occasionally molasses-like pace.

The blocking, too, is clunky in places — the actors cut off at the waist behind furniture, standing uncertainly midroom with nothing to do, lined up like targets in a duckshoot. It sometimes makes the characters seem uncomfortable in their own home, and gives them a stagy quality rather than allowing them the freedom of real-life movement.

But those drawbacks don't interfere much with the entertaining production, thanks to Siegel's funny, frothy script and the likable cast.

•••

If you go

"Generations Apart"

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays, through April 1

Where: Theatre Conspiracy, 10091 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers

Tickets: $16 ($7 for students)

Information: (239) 936-3239


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