God’s Favorite is Neil Simon’s eleventh play – or his fourteenth if you include the musicals. It was written in 1974 and first opened on Broadway in December of that year. Now the comedy has come to Gaithersburg, presented by the city’s Arts Barn in partnership with Montgomery Playhouse. The production opens Nov. 8.
Under the direction of Chevy Chase resident Ed Starr, a talented veteran director of local theater productions, the play will delight, amuse and challenge the audience. Very loosely based on the none-too-funny Book of Job, the “Job” at the story’s center is Joe Benjamin, a successful Long Island businessman with a house full of ridiculously dysfunctional family members and irreverent household employees.
Benjamin is afflicted by a surreal catalogue of freakish disasters and the reason becomes apparent when Benjamin’s personal “messenger from God,” who is charged with the mission of testing Benjamin’s faith and reporting back, fills in the big picture for Benjamin and the audience.
Apparently, God has a sense of humor because his messenger is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek loser who eventually finds himself leaving God’s work to apply for a job delivering packages at UPS.
At an October rehearsal, cast members deadpanned irreverent, humorous dialogue with intermittent prompting from Assistant Director Loretto McNally and periodic coaching from Director Ed Starr.
“Simon’s characters are funny,” said Starr during a quick break from rehearsal. “They have a skewed view of the world and a skewed view of relationships, but they have no idea how funny they are. I encourage my actors to play it straight and the comedy follows.”
When God’s Favorite opened on Broadway, the New York Daily News raved, “Awesomely funny. … the work of a man of vision. It’ll make you laugh out loud.” All signs are that the Gaithersburg presentation will do the same.
The show runs Nov. 8 through 24 with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Admission is $16, $14 for city of Gaithersburg residents. The Arts Barn, Gaithersburg’s premier cultural arts facility, is located at 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg. For more information and tickets, call 301.258.6394 or visit online at www.gaithersburgmd.gov/theater.