The Woody Allen comedy, God, performed last weekend in the Harvard Union primarily by first-year students, is a play for people already familiar with Woody Allen. This is not to say that people who have not seen Allen's classic film Annie Hall will not enjoy the performance, but there are some scenes where previous knowledge is relatively necessary to fully appreciate it.
The play, which is a play within a play within a...et cetera, is a spoof on Greek tragedy, modern drama and Woody Allen himself. Considering the piece is approximately 45 minutes long, the complexity is both impressive and confusing.
The play opens with the two protagonists, Hepatitis and Diabetes, sitting in togas center stage, discussing a play that Hepatitis is writing, and that features Diabetes. The most pressing question facing them is how to write a play. Should it be written from the beginning or from the end, they wonder.
In answering this question, the play takes off in all sorts of comic directions. There are phone calls to the playwright himself incorporating a tape recorded voice that sounds pretty much like Woody Allen, and an appearance by Blanche DuBois, followed by Groucho Marx and a messenger from Western Union. All these arbitrary appearances serve to make the play a bizarre and entertaining satire of drama in general.
But the play falters a little when, in classic Allen fashion, it breaks the fourth wall. The quality of "all the World's a stage," or whatever metaphysical truth that motivates this action is not particularly clear. When emcee Lorenzo Miller, played nicely by Josh Tucker, comes into the audience and introduces members of it, and drops a few Pennypacker dorm jokes, it seems a bit forced. Some of the cracks about Harvard are funny, though.
Eric Columbus does a fine job with all his considerable capacities in God--he both co-directs and co-produces, and acts. He is hilariously funny as Diabetes, and at some points, he actually appears to be Allen. The resemblance is less physical than spiritual--he adopts Allen's mannerisms and tones almost eerily. The strongest parts of the plays occur when Columbus assumes this persona.
Playing Hepatitis, Michael Burstein gives a less memorable performance than Columbus. He is a solid performer, and plays well off Columbus, but he lacks the same inspiration.
Jessye Lapenn give an effective performance as Doris Levine, the woman who emerges from the audience to become the female lead. She is convincingly sexy and stupid as she flirts with the cast and chats openly about her unfullfilling sex life.
Also enjoyable were the performance of the actors in the chorus who chant--in deadpan--Allen's version of the truth.
The set of God is minimalist, to say the least, but the paucity of props works because the stage is usually full of performers. The cast is energetic, and there are so many interesting characters that there is never a dull moment.
The play is made all the more enjoyable by the fact that it is short, and not at all taxing. Above all, it is fun. Despite the title, the deeper meanings can be safely left alone.