Review: ‘Thy Kingdom’s Coming’

Playwright/actor Jeff Daniels' fourth script for his hometown theater company , "Thy Kingdom's Coming," takes a whack at religionists and rightists by looking at them through the eyes of some guys who inhabit a similarly bizarre fantasy world -- Hollywood. Daniels & Co. have put together a comedy that is indignant and full of ideas, but surprisingly lacking in momentum.

Playwright/actor Jeff Daniels’ fourth script for his hometown theater company , “Thy Kingdom’s Coming,” takes a whack at religionists and rightists by looking at them through the eyes of some guys who inhabit a similarly bizarre fantasy world — Hollywood. Daniels & Co. have put together a comedy that is indignant and full of ideas, but surprisingly lacking in momentum.

Derek Johansen (Wayne David Parker) is a meat-headed, muscle-bound star who considers Jean-Claude van Damme his archrival. In the living room of his house high atop the Hollywood Hills, Derek is receiving visitors. The first is Crash Baker (Guy Sanville), an ex-stuntman who’s been out of work ever since he took out an ad in Variety saying he is “the best gay stuntmanin Hollywood.” Having used his downtime to find religion and “cross over” to heterosexuality, he now hopes Johansen will employ him as a personal assistant.

Next to arrive is Gordon Wessler (a brilliantly sleazy Phillip Locker), Derek’s producer, who’s constantly kvetching on the cellular phone permanently attached to his ear.

Appearing late on the scene is scripter Gerald Marushkin (Anthony Casselli), a mousy little guy and the “brains” of the outfit, who’s initially taken for a tourist and nearly pulverized by Crash.

With this crew assembled, Derek breaks the news that he’s to star in a new steroid-driven action-adventure pic — based on the life of Christ.

The rest of the piece is spent with the characters trying to figure out how to make the movie so they can rake in as much at the B.O. as possible and still humor televangelist Pat Robertson and his following.

Daniels’ script is quick and biting, and it paints a suitably harsh insider’s picture of what it takes to get a Hollywood movie made. His humor can be obvious , though, and as heavy-handed as the diatribes of Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, the dual moral villains of the piece.

Crash, the ex-gay with a newfound adoration for Robertson, claims Pat won’t care how many people get stoned to death in the movie, as long as they’re homosexuals. Producer Gordon wants T&A; Gerald the screenwriter moans that most of the Bible is all talk and no action.

Acting and technical credits are all first-class, and direction by Daniels’ longtime collaborator T. Newell Kring is brisk. Parker is funny and energetic as Johansen, and his moronic reading of the Sermon on the Mount is truly inspired.

“Thy Kingdom’s Coming” starts out as a fun peek at the contemporary morality that pits the business of Hollywood against that of the religious right. The ending feels sudden and unfinished, though, and left some members of the audience a bit confused.

Thy Kingdom's Coming

Production

CHELSEA, MICH. A Purple Rose Theatre Company presentation of a comedy in two acts by Jeff Daniels. Directed by T. Newell Kring.

Crew

Set, Bartley H. Bauer; costumes, Susan Holls Naum; lighting, Gary Decker; sound, Joe Jenkins; stage manager, Susan C. Guszynski. Executive director, Daniels; artistic director, Kring; managing director, Alan Ribant. Opened October 14, 1994; reviewed Oct. 16 ; runs through Nov. 27 at the Garage Theatre; 119 seats; $ 20 top. Running time: 2 HOURS, 10 MINS.

With

Derek Johansen ... Wayne David Parker Crash Baker ... Guy Sanville Gordon Wessler ... Phillip Locker Gerald Marushkin ... Anthony Caselli
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