|Playwright In A Pulpit|
LOS ANGELES--David Rambo's GOD'S MAN IN TEXAS is a lowkey and
understated drama about the state of religion in the USA--make that Texas. Following in the satirical tradition of Sinclair Lewis' Elmer Gantry, the play takes us inside the Rock Baptist Church in Houston which has been run as a fiefdom by 81-year old Dr. Philip Gottschall (George Coe).
The pastor is proud
and protective of what he has achieved over the decades, building a church
that has become rich, powerful and popular (with upperclass whites, anyway).
With its showbiz- like Sunday ceremonies, its family-oriented social services
(everything from recovery sessions to bowling alleys), its choral groups
and TV programs, this is religion American-style, not only a big business
but a political force, one that helped the Bushes gain the presidency.
When Mears begins
to fight back, the play picks up in needed intensity and energy. Problem
is, Rambo doesn't get to the main battle between the two opposing pastors
until the second act. Had he started the play at this point, GOD'S MAN
IN TEXAS would have generated a lot more heat and excitement. Instead,
Rambo takes his time and settles for too much
GOD'S MAN is directed by the Geffen's artistic director, Randall Arney, who came to L.A. from Chicago's Steppenwolf. Barford and Guinan are also from Steppenwolf; together with Coe they have mounted a capable but only fitfully engaging production. (At the Geffen Playhouse through March 17. 10886 Le Conte Ave, Westwood. Call (310) 208-5454 or visit www.geffenplayhouse.com