Theatre Mirror Reviews - "God's Favorite"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"God's Favorite"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Players second show of their 97th season is Neil Simon's "God's Favorite", a funny play based on the Book of Job. The show takes place at the Benjamin mansion on the North Shore of Long Island in the mid 1970's, where resides a tycoon, his wife, a drunken, prodigal son, a pair of kookie twins and two servants. Then one night a messenger from God arrives, with a big G on his sweatshirt, to tell Joe that he is God's favorite and all he needs to do is renounce God. Joe refuses so a fire is sent to his factory and his home but amid the seeming tragic circumstances, Neil Simon delivers the comic goods with some clever and funny lines. Director Alma Fontana expertly casts this show with superior acting talent in all eight roles, bringing this comic show to life and giving the audience a rousing night of entertainment.

Alma pays attention to every detail with her blocking and direction while her stage manager, Lydia Matteson keeps the show running smoothly from start to finish with the set changes. The gorgeous mansion set which falls apart is by Dan Clement with lighting by Ruth Fagan. The two leading actors are perfect in their roles and give the show a strong foundation to stand on. Ted Gavriluk gives a tour de force performance in this enormous role of the long suffering father, Joe Benjamin. He is onstage for 79 pages of the 82 page script. Ted delivers the goods in a two and a half page monologue as well as in playing the many different levels this demanding role calls for in his dialogue, too. His transition from wealthy tycoon to the decrepit codger in the second act is amazing and he has great chemistry with the whole ensemble. Tom DiMaggio is a hoot as Sidney Lipton, the messenger from God. He has many one liners and hilarious dialogue and makes each of them hit paydirt. Tom wears a tan rain coat, hush puppies and thick lenses eye glasses to create this nebbish creature who magically appears behind the sofa and enters through the fireplace. His scenes with Ted crackle with the energy and comic timing needed for this show. Bravo to both of them.

Carole Battaglia plays the comic role of Joe's dumbell wife, Rose. She wears a mink coat and clutches her jewel box during the show while uttering some funny lines. Eventually she stands up to Joe, telling him to renounce God or she is going to leave him. The prodigal, drunken son, David is played by Brian Ellsworth. His cocky behavior is finally punished by God and he makes the transition with ease. The even dumber twins are played excellently by Kathleen Oliverio and Stephen Michelsson. They constantly repeat each others lines while they walk and talk alike, too. Rounding out the cast are the comic maid and butler, Mady and Morris, played by Bonnie DerManelian and Rick Braun. They do a wonderful job with their comic reactions, their discussion of the house fire and their praying scene is a hoot. So for a rip roaring, rollicking Neil Simon comedy, be sure to catch "God's Favorite" at Barker Playhouse. To become a member of this theatre club, be sure to give Lydia a call.

"God's Favorite" (3 - 11 December)
Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401) 273-0590

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide