A God so Little

Bless me and mine, oh, Father, and forgive me for what I must write about a play highlighting your bigness and not much else. Let us pray. God's Man in Texas is currently preaching its way through a run at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Any criticism I have for playwright David Rambo has little to do with his talent, but rather his judgment. God's Man is being billed as the "Baptist Super Bowl." If by that the marketers mean overblown, tedious to watch, and lacking excitement or intrigue, they've hit the nail on the cross. God's Man in Texas is preachy at best, boring at worst, and nothing else in between.

We find ourselves in a Baptist church in Houston, where Dr. Phillip Gottschall (played enthusiastically and convincingly by Robert Symonds) has been leading the largest flock in Texas for 50 years and wants to keep on rocking, biblically speaking. But the church deacons (the church's answer to a Republican Congress) think it's time for something meatier. Enter Dr. Jeremiah Mears (Robert Pescovitz; twice as enthusiastic, half as convincing). Mears is a dedicated soulmate of God who is ready for the spotlight.

Gottschall isn't ready to let go, Mears lacks confidence and accountability, and that's about it. There is no poignant conflict, no clear antagonist, and plenty of preaching to the converted. (Pescovitz and Symonds deliver several sermons on God's glory, power and wonder. Hallelujah, but it is hardly new, nor is it very interesting to listen to.)

The playwright tentatively explores several themes, including: vanity, soul-searching, father and son parallels, and religion as an expression of love rather than power or prestige. Unfortunately, none of these goes anywhere but blandward. The only theme that does come through is Baptists on parade—literally, as when the conflict between the two pastors peaks at a Christmas parade. Christmas lights engulf the stage, and a wobbly float lifts the preachers a whole five feet in the air. As stage miracles go, it leaves a lot to be desired—as does the weak resolution to this pillow fight of a conflict.

GOD'S MAN IN TEXAS AT THE OLD GLOBE THEATRE, CASSIUS CARTER CENTRE STAGE, BALBOA PARK, SAN DIEGO, (619) 239-2255. TUES.-FRI., 8 P.M.; SAT., 2 & 8 P.M.; SUN., 2 & 7 P.M. $23-$42. THROUGH AUG. 26.

 
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