Joe Benjamin is a modern day Job, loyal to his God and about to be tested to his limits in his faith. God’s Favorite was written by Neil Simon after the death of the playwright’s wife to cancer and according to Braden Hunt, who is directing, it brings up all the big questions about life.
Although, he cautions, anyone expecting a serious night at the theater will be disappointed. "This is a comedy."
Hunt had seen an earlier production of the show by the A.D. Players and says he enjoyed it. "I thought it was funny. There's a nice heartwarming message in it, like if you trust God all will be well." But it wasn't until he was given his own chance to direct and heard the lines being spoken by the actors that he fell in love with it; the questions it raises really resonated with him.
"What’s the purpose of struggling? Does God really exist? If he does, why would he allow the suffering that he does? What are the merits of faith? Those questions are really relevant."
The basic plot of the two-act play follows the book of Job in the Bible. "God and Satan are talking and Satan says 'They would renounce you if I made them suffer enough' and God says 'There’s one that wouldn’t and his name is Job."
God's Favorite came out on Broadway in 1974 (running till 1975) and Hunt believes its pop references still play well. Beside Joe there is his wife Rose, two children, two servants and a character who's the main antagonist, Hunt says. All have a different perspective or relationship with faith and God, he says. Whether the antagonist is actually Satan in the flesh is an open-ended question that Simon never fully answered, he says.
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Hunt, who has a degree in acting and directing from the University of Houston, says theater intrigued him because of the insights he gains from it. "I am primarily interested in understanding how human beings that are different can get along better. I kind of think theater is a rehearsal for life, an opportunity to understand people that are different from me through different characters."
In the case of God's Favorite, that's certainly true, he says.
"It’s a completely relatable story. If you’ve ever struggled with any of the questions and you're open to being challenged you can come and be inspired. But it's also not heavy-handed. If you want to come just have a good time and laugh, you can."
Performances are scheduled for July 13 through August 5 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at A.D. Players at The George, 5420 Westheimer. For information, call 713-526-2721 or visit adplayers.org. $20-$70.