An Interview with the Lord: An Act of God with Sean Hayes Opens Tuesday

God has a respectable 2.3 million followers on Twitter, and follows only one person: Justin Bieber. Or He did, anyway, before He left Twitter last month. (@TheTweetOfGod's final message to humankind, on Feb. 13? “Justice.”)

But don't worry, the Almighty didn't entirely flow the coop. Instead, He has chosen to inhabit Sean Hayes in corporeal form, and brings the play An Act of God to SHN for a three-week run starting Tuesday, March 29 (two days after Easter, which is a pretty high-volume day for the Lord). SF Weekly chatted with the 45-year-old actor from L.A., where the hour-and-a-half-long An Act of God had recently completed its month of performances.

[jump] “Happy St. Patrick’s Day,” is the first thing I say, while I've got the divinity on the line.

“And also with you,” comes the reply.

Instinctively, years of Catholic school takes over: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”

“It is right to give him thanks and praise,” Hayes says.

Then we get to the hear of the matter: What's it like to play God? (Hayes had appeared as the Devil in Damn Yankees, so it's oddly appropriate for him to join George Burns, Morgan Freeman, Alanis Morissette in taking on the role of Satan's nemesis.)

“It’s very fun, he says. “My favorite part of the whole play is the whole conceit, which is that God inhabits the body of Sean Hayes to deliver his message for 90 minutes. It’s really fun, one of the best written things I’ve ever read.” 

David Javerbaum (the guy behind the Tweet of God, and a former Daily Show writer with 13 Emmys) penned the play, which features lots of modern updates to the 10 Commandments as if God were an irreverent, easily annoyed figure who seems to view Creation with pursed lips and an Alan Rickman-esque disgust. Theatergoers get the real dish on major Biblical stories, like what really happened to hapless Job or on Noah's Ark. And Hayes social media feeds are full of celebs who've come to see it: Tom Hanks, Martin Short, Kristin Chenoweth, and Will & Grace costars Megan Mullally and Eric McCormack.

“The word-of-mouth is really great here,” Hayes says. “Hopefully, it'll be the same in San Francisco.”

There have of course been other plays that take down crusty believers' notions of God, most notably Christopher Durang's 1981 Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, in which the joyless titular nun fields questions about morality, describing Sodom as “anyplace with a population of over 50,000” and neatly debunking astrology: “Christ would be a Capricorn, and Capricorn people are cold, ambitious, and attracted to Scorpio and Virgo, and we know that Christ was warm, loving, and not attracted to anybody.” In other words, it's a pretty brutal assault on the Catholic Church.

“I’m a huge Christopher Durang fan, I know that play,” Hayes said. “in college, Christopher Durang was a big thing.” Comparing Sister Mary with An Act of God, Hayes says that Javerbaum “questions things more than preaches to you.”

Hayes calls himself spiritual rather than religious, but actors are fairly superstitious, luck-obsessed people, and he has a pre-show ritual to calm his nerves. 

“One of my things is, I’ll stand behind the curtain, a see-thru curtain, I can see them but they can’t see me. It’s corny and it’s cheesy to others but it makes me relax and feel like the first time I'm appearing isn’t my entrance.”

An Act of God, March 29 – April 17, at SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor, shnsf.com.

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