So, God walks into a therapist’s office….
It could be the beginning of a profound drama, a brilliant comedy, or at least a well-told joke. But instead, the metaphysical hypothetical that’s proffered in Anat Gov’s Oh, God results in a pedestrian riff on the Lord’s mysterious ways, Old Testament edition.
A popular success in productions from Jerusalem to Boston, Oh, God (★★), now at Mosaic Theater, establishes an intriguing concept of God in human form, embodied by Mitchell Hebért as a dashing daddy figure dressed all in black. Projecting a vibe somewhere between professorial and The Most Interesting Man in the World, he strolls into the home office of psychologist Ella (Kimberly Schraf), as all-knowing as ever yet desperately seeking answers. The confident center of the universe, God somehow feels lost. He’s thinking of ending it all, which, as he warns Ella, would be catastrophic not just for him but for all life on earth.
Ella, raising an autistic teenager (Cameron Sean McCoy), is plagued by doubts of her own, and isn’t really a believer in God. Still, of all the psychologists in the world, she might be ideally suited for the challenge of helping God rediscover his purpose.
Whatever that is, he thinks he’ll find it by examining his relationship to mankind, which seems more than a little reductive for the divine creator of the cosmos and all things. Even more reductive, the play and Ella ignore millennia of history in God’s relationship to humanity to focus entirely on events covered in the Old Testament.
Engaged more in Bible study than a therapy session, Ella and God debate Adam, Eve, Moses, Noah, Abraham, and Cain and Abel as factual history. What might be a compelling thought exercise for Sunday school teachers and devotees of the gospels won’t have much effect on the less theologically inclined. And the thinly-drawn psychological drama doesn’t make up the difference.
Except for the play’s depiction of raising a child with mental challenges, Oh, God feels impervious to real life in post-Biblical times. Perhaps Gov’s allegorical approach to putting God on the couch has traveled well internationally precisely because it doesn’t commit to offering opinions on anything in creation more controversial than the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
Oh, God runs through January 13 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NE. Tickets are $20 to $65. Call 202-399-7993, ext. 2 or visit MosaicTheater.org.