“God’s Favorite” is loosely based on the biblical book of Job. His story flies in the face of the idea that God always rewards good deeds and punishes wrongdoing. Job is blameless; however in the Bible, Satan tells God that Job is only faithful because God has blessed him. God allows everything Job has to be stripped away as a test of his devotion. If God never lets anything bad happen to his favorite, there is no way to tell if he is truly faithful.
Neil Simon wrote “God’s Favorite” after he lost his wife to cancer. It was the playwright’s way of exploring the meaning of incredible suffering. As someone who recently lost a family member to cancer, I appreciate this play as a public reflection of hardship and loss. I walked away from the showing feeling a sort of cathartic refreshment.
However, I have a few criticisms. The first act was unbearably slow since it’s mostly just a set up for the second act. However, the second act was engrossing from the moment the curtains came up. There was a collective gasp as the audience took in the second set. At intermission, I was worried that this would be a dull show; I was proven wrong by the ending.
This play was clearly written for a New York City audience, not a Texas audience. The characters reference the subway, Long Island versus city living and other New York idiosyncrasies. I only vaguely know the names of the rich New York boroughs from the poor. Instead of having Joe Benjamin (Craig Griffin) be a pious multi-millionaire living in Long Island, it would be more engaging to see him as a God-fearing tycoon living in River Oaks.
Craig Griffin convincingly portrays all of Joe Benjamin’s human moments by being a frustrated but loving father to his drunken son David Benjamin (Matt Harris Andersen) to being angry but loving toward his maker. Griffon pulls off all the gags for his character by comically acting out the curses of hidden itches and other woes.
God’s messenger, Sidney Lipton (Chip Simmons) shines with his jester-like gigs and commentaries. Matt Harris Andersen is entertaining from the moment he stumbles on stage as the drunk, rebellious prodigal son David Benjamin. Besides Joe, David is the only multi-dimensional character in the Benjamin family. Sarah Benjamin (Lindsay Ehrhardt) and Ben Benjamin (Michael Morrison) are Joe’s other endearing but slightly annoying children. Joe’s wife, Rose Benjamin (Deborah Hope), literally clings to her wealth throughout the play.
I recommend this production to any Christian or Jew who attends religious service on a semi-regular basis. “God’s Favorite” definitely makes the book of Job more accessible to its audience.
A.D. Players is showing “God’s Favorite” at the George Theater in the Galleria area till August 5. Tickets start at $20.