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God Tells All in His Autobiography

"The Autobiography of God as told to Mel Schneider"
Directed by Donavan Dolan
May 22 to June 1 (closed)
Ontological Theatre, 131 E. 10th St. (at 2nd Ave.)
Presented by Slice of Life Theatre Company
Th, Fr at 8 p.m.; Sat at 7 and 10 p.m.; Sun at 3 and 8 p.m. (closed)
$15, Box office: Smarttix (212) 206-1515 (www.smarttix.com)
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons
 (L) Ron Palillo as Ron Schneider and (R) Joseph Lee Gramm as the deity.

"The Autobiography of God as told to Mel Schneider," presented May 22 to June 1 by Slice of Life Theatre Company at the Ontological Theater, tackles many of the issues that have continually puzzled humanity: Is there a God? What is the nature of God? Does God care about people on this tiny planet? But playwright Marv Siegel treats these hefty issues in such a light and entertaining way that most people will not be overwhelmed by the heaviness of the material.

Ron Palillo (of "Welcome Back, Kotter" fame) plays Mel Schneider, a lawyer-turned-TV writer who is visited by a disgruntled God (the exemplary Joe Gramm) looking for a way to convince people to stop bothering him with prayers he cannot answer.

God convinces Schneider to write and produce a one-God show in which he can address the audience in his con man style. Not only isn't God successful, he also incurs the wrath of Lulu Walker (Genna Brocone), a young believer who prays unceasingly for God's intervention to save her brother, who has bone cancer, from death.

Hardly the stuff of comedy, one might think. But Siegel's dialogue, Gramm's oafish and Palillo's offbeat performances, and director Donavan Dolan's lighthearted yet thoughtful staging all make God seem much more like a kindhearted but hapless boss than a divine presence. God stays at the presidential suite at the Waldorf, goes shopping, presents Lulu with her long-lost favorite toy, and suffers from heart pains.

It's easy to see the resigned Jewish humor in this play, which was developed in part at the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan (oy vei, even God has his problems!), as well as the time-honored tradition of sweetening bitter lessons with a good laugh.

"What's ruder than prayer?" God asks, tired of people who want to be waited on night and day.

When questioned, God counters with, "I might tell a parable or two, but I never lie."

And when truly upset, what else can God say but, "I swear to me!"

Dark comedy is always difficult. But Siegel pulls this one off so effortlessly one would never know. Add to this some interesting sound and light effects, and a few unexpected twists, and this is one of the brightest dark comedies you'll ever see. [Simmons]

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