“Thought Provoking “O, My God”
At The Theatre with Audrey Linden
Israeli playwright, Anat Gov’s play, “O, My God,” deftly directed by Howard Teichman of the West Coast Jewish Theatre, is a treat for the soul and mind. Unfortunately, Gov passed from cancer and never got to see the premiere of her play. Her writing is brilliant. The humor cuts through any intellectual religiosity which could have become didactic. Gov gave us a sensitive, and thought provoking play in which God is conflicted and goes to a psychologist.
The play was enhanced by Kurtis Bedford’s set which was Ella’s office in her home in Tel Aviv, and by Gil Tordjman’s subtle lighting effects and Bill Frogatt’s sound design. Had the writing not been so fine and the direction superb, this play could have been one of intellectual tedium. But, the playwright gave us a good balance of humor and intellect, and Teichman’s light touches were evident and gave us a well- rounded comedy drama.
The acting in this three character play was incredibly good. Maria Spassoff who portrayed the intelligent, dynamic psychologist, Ella, managed a very credible Israeli accent throughout the play. Her acting was so real and dynamic. Ella had her own doubts about God starting at age four. When G. (Mike Burstyn) enters as a mysterious new client, Ella has misgivings that he may be a government spy. And, G. clad in a black with a black fedora and smooth manner gave her cause to be wary of him. He knows way too many personal details about her and her autistic son, Lior. Had he been spying on her?
The ensemble cast of three actors, Joseph Rishik as the cello playing, autistic son, Lior, Mike Burstyn as G. , and Spassoff as Ella was excellent. It is no easy feat to portray God and Mike Burstyn did so with ease as he humanized God, who at times contemplated suicide or murder. His problem : “I want to die.” The fine writing avoided giving us a cliché or hackneyed version of God. There was a classic shrink line from Ella, “You didn’t have a mother, and so whom can we blame?” Seems God has been depressed for over 2,000 years.
Is he a God of love who created the Universe in seven days and the first man, Adam, out of loneliness to have a friend? He gave Adam a woman so he would have a mate. There were some highly original interpretations of the Garden of Eden and how the serpent tempted Eve to eat the apple. “In sorrow bring forth children”. Ella’s psychological view is that God was jealous when he said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” She explored his psyche in a humorous way. Seems God had a fear of abandonment.
Since God loved the Jews most of all, he took out his fears and wrath on them with 4,000 years of slavery, 40 years of wandering through the desert, progroms, etc. He is then portrayed as God of wrath who killed Job’s family. Job, who so loved God as God wished to be revered and loved fell victim to God’s wrath, but, Job still loved God. “That is unconditional love”, reminds Ella. Ella held the key as God’s past unraveled. She cleverly and unabashedly delved and dug into the past and repeatedly asked God, “How did you feel?” She badgered and stripped God of his distance to help him.
I was continually intrigued and fascinated by the writing. There were many humorous moments with some cliché jokes about our creator, and, God told some of those cliché jokes about himself. But, there was a marvelous intellectual depth to the writing also that was very rewarding. We had biblical references with quotes from scripture that bolstered Ella’s search for the truth. Why is God in this dilemma? How can his powers be restored? Ella unpeels layers of God’s psyche, much like unravelling layers of an onion. And there were tears that come from the rawness of that onion which stung. Burstyn as God was moved to tears under Ella’s probing. And, so was I. It was a spiritual catharsis.
Ultimately, healing takes place for all. “O, My God” was quite a journey, which never disappointed and continually engaged me. There were intellectual twists and turns with bumps in the road. But, Anat Gov’s highly original play was revealing and satisfying. She explored through Ella, God’s love and God’s inhumanity to man and man’s inhumanity to man. With all that happened in Ella’s life, though she railed against God, in this psychological exploration, she ultimately believed in a greater good and in God’s power and in humanity. This play presents a humorous, rich, and fascinating, dialogue. It is indeed “Chicken Food for The Soul”. My only criticism is that there should have been a Q and A afterwards. There is so much “food for thought”. It will lead to a stimulating discussion afterwards.
The West Coast Jewish Theatre’s production of “O, My God” which runs through June 7th is at the Pico Playhouse at 10805 W. Pico, WLA . There is street parking in the neighborhood. Call 323-821- 2449 or go on line to wcjt.tix.com
Audrey Linden is a writer, actress and singer. She can be seen in a long-running “Associated Tax Resolution” commercial, two “Little Caesars” spots, a “Teva International Pharmaceutical” short, Gene Simmons’ “Family Jewels,” “America’s Court with Judge Ross,” VHS “Tough Love 2,” “Wendy’s” , “Shimmer” commercial, Spike T V, etc.
Audrey teaches ON CAMERA COMMERCIAL and IMPROV COMEDY WORKSHOPS through the City of Beverly Hills. To register, go on line to www.beverlyhills.org/bhregonline . Registration will open at the end of May. Her classes are held at 241 Moreno Dr. B.H. 90212. Her next ON CAMERA and IMPROV classes start in June for summer. Early enrollment is advised as classes fill. For more information, contact Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org