Cast: Vijay Marur, Jayant Dwarakanath, Sharmila Taneja, B S Prakash Director:
The invitation to the show read something like this: "Dramatic Circle Hyderabad presents Neil Simon's Hilarious Broadway Comedy God's Favorite". It evoked numerous reactions in me - it appeared quite promising, inviting and dramatic. 'Promising' because it was a comedy, 'inviting' because that's what it was supposed to do, and 'dramatic' because they said it was.
God's Favorite is a modern day adaptation of a Biblical story by Neil Simon. It's about a man who withstood disease, despair and death to prove his devotion to God. Joe Benjamin (Vijay Marur) is a 'stinking' rich tycoon, and hence counts aerosol deodorant as the most valuable invention of the civilized world, over the wheel. He does go through his share of miseries though. He rises from the clutches of poverty and builds his fortune banking on his commitment to cardboard boxes and his faith in God.
It so happens that Joe climbs his way up in God's favor ratings in not too dissimilar a way to his ascent of the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, our man gets trapped in a bet between the God and the Devil. The Devil bets that he (or is it a 'she'?) can torment anyone into renouncing "Him", and God braves the Devil to take a crack at his favorite, Joe Benjamin.
The coward that God is, He sends His messenger to warn His favorite about the impending doom. Sidney Lipton (B S Prakash) plays God's messenger who passes on this info to Joe. Fortunately, his family has given him enough grounding for him not to be deterred by any 'test'. Didn't get why it is so? Well, here's the family.
Sarah, Joe's daughter, wakes up in the nights and imagines getting attacked by a rapist with "hands running up and down her body." Prodigal son David asserts that he drinks to relieve himself of sobriety. And wife Rosie is a jewelry-crazy, repugnant housewife who is bothered more about her jewels than about her husband when their Long Island mansion catches fire. Now, could anyone be bettered prepared for a 'test' than this?
Just like he was warned, one hardship strikes Joe after another. He loses his business, his family and his house, and is afflicted with every imaginable malady. Now if this is what happens if you are the God's favorite, then thank God, I am an atheist! Quite predictably, Joe comes out triumphant in the end.
The script desperately needed originality. And except God's messenger (B S Prakash), nobody in the cast really impressed. If they hadn't mentioned in the title, none would have known that this was a comedy.
The lesser we talk about the dialogues, the better. Everyone seemed to run through his or her dialogue in what appears to be a fear of being associated with it. The backdrop, the music and the costumes diligently play their part in ruining the show. Dunno if this was God's favorite or not, but it sure wasn't His subjects' (read audience) favorite.
The only thing good about the show was its venue: Shilpa Kala Vedika. It's an incredibly cool place to be at. The all-pervading pulchritude sure was a Feast for the eyes. What's on your stick, dude?