The comedy turns to drama. Gottschall administers and Mears ministers -- especially to a woman looking for Hugo Taney, whose name she has seen as a credit in one of the Rock Baptist Church's television broadcasts. Then, in the most arresting scene of the play, Mears turns into a father figure for Hugo. Gottschall misinterprets their relationship as a conspiracy against him, and discharges Hugo from his job.
God's Man in Texas is an exceedingly powerful and moving play about lifting up the human condition of Everyman. It contrasts the characters' experiences of evil. Mears "feels your pain." For him evil is transitional to healing and exorcising psychological wounds. As a recovering substance abuser, Hugo must name his demon in order to separate himself from his alter fiend of addiction, or perish. And Gottschall turns to scapegoating and paranoia. Ultimately Gottschall's view of moral evil is not the absence of good in a divinely created world, but rather the absence of Gottschall from his pulpit.
Through April 23. Written by David Rambo. Directed by Stephen Rothman. Set design by Klara Zieglorova. Starring Bob Burrus, Robert Elliott, and William Metzo.
Florida Stage, 262 S Ocean Blvd, Manalapan; 561-585-3433.
From almost every angle the play succeeds, beginning with the direction of Stephen Rothman. The performances by Bob Burrus as Hugo, Robert Elliott as Mears, and William Metzo as Gottschall create an aura of a much larger ensemble cast, and they play it for laughs and fears with equal facility. And the stunning set almost qualifies as another character. A thick, gold metallic cross cantilevered over the entire stage, apocalyptic clouds swirling on the walls, and a plastic floor painted with gold automobile paint, evoke the tinseled, Fifties Gothic-modern architecture of suburban American churches. And Klara Zieglorova's set design not only maintains the tabernaclelike intimacy of the Florida Stage performance space, but also graciously, fluidly, and economically accommodates the waiting room, pulpit, and the campus of Gottschall College within the single set.
Like the best of modern art, which reconfigures our perceptions, God's Man in Texas is sui generis, a modern allegorical morality play in which form and content interact in an adept jumble of comedy, drama, and gentle and biting satire. And because of the redemptive convictions of the characters (that as flawed as they may be, God will still save them), the drama cannot be a tragedy.