By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
There's a whole lot of powerful preaching going on during “God's Man in Texas,” now playing at Live Theatre Workshop. But don't worry, the mini-sermons only last a few minutes each.
And most of the the time LTW's enthusiastic actors are satirizing the performances of those TV evangelists. The chosen ones who have God's ear – and will put in a good word on your behalf if you just add a little more to the collection plate.
Yet, the play has some penetrating observations about the big-scale selling of fundamentalist Christianity and the importance of dressing these spiritual advertisements in the proper imagery of the congregations who give their money freely to such lofty spiritual leaders.
The playwright, David Rambo, is said to have originally been a Los Angeles theater wannabe who became a very successful real estate agent intimately familiar with the psychology of sales pitches. All of that experience is poured into “God's Man In Texas.”
At LTW three members of the theater's A-team have been cast by director Rhonda Hallquist. Michael Woodson wearing a gray wig plays Dr. Phillip Gottschall, the 81-year-old charismatic minister who built the massive Rock Baptist Church in Houston.
Some members of the church board believe Dr. Gottschall is losing the magic touch needed to keep such a holy house of cards from collapsing. Turning toward San Antonio they invite a bright young Man of God with super-star potential Dr. Jeremiah Mears (Stephen Frankenfield) to deliver a few guest sermons at Rock Baptist.
It becomes a plot point that no one ever mentions Jerry (as he likes to be called) is actually trying out as a replacement for Dr. Gottschall.
Completing this triumvirate of men who never say what they are actually thinking is the wired-in chief of production, Hugo Taney (Keith Wick). He is the man behind the curtain, always wearing an intercom head set, always knowing what the other two are all about.
Hugo also provides comedy relief as well as some key narration to keep the story moving right along.
Part comedy and part philosophy, “God's Man in Texas” doesn't make fun of these soul savers on the small screen so much as pull back that video curtain to reveal their ambitions as being quite worldly.
Billy Graham started out as a Fuller Brush salesman we are told early on. And everybody knows that the cousin of rock 'n' roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis is the defrocked Jimmy Swaggart.
Unfortunately the play itself wanders off-topic now and then, failing to score as many points as it could, but this cast and director squeeze as much life out of it as they possibly can.
"God's Man in Texas” runs through Nov. 14 with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, at Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd. Additional performance at 3 p.m. on Nov. 14. For details and reservations, 327-4242, and livetheatreworkshop.org