By Richard Schultz, December 2016 Issue.
The Broadway smash comedy An Act of God is coming to Phoenix with a twist. Rather than a male actor playing the lead role, Paige Davis, well known as the effervescent star of TV’s design-reality show “Trading Spaces,” makes her Arizona Theater Company debut and takes on the role of the deity.
Davis has appeared on Broadway in Boeing-Boeing as Gloria and Chicago as Roxie Hart; she has toured in productions of Sweet Charity, The Vagina Monologues and Beauty and the Beast; she’s the Emmy Award-nominated host of “Home Made Simple” on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN); and her book, Paige by Paige: A Year of Trading Spaces, landed at the top of the New York Times Bestseller list.
Echo: How did you get cast in this show?
Davis: I know my agent submitted me, but I also know I had some sweet friends at Arizona Theatre Company vying for me and speaking highly of me to Marsha Mason. I put my audition on tape, but Marsha and I met in person in New York before she made the offer. I skipped all the way home! I couldn’t believe I had even met her, let alone was going to work with her!
Echo: Since the role was played by male actors on Broadway, how does it translate when portrayed by a female?
Davis: It’s been played by two actors on Broadway, Jim Parsons and Sean Hayes. So, I’m thrilled that An Act of God has put a woman at the helm much faster than, oh let’s say, the White House. But the script was surprisingly immune to many necessary changes. We found God as an entity rather gender neutral. The messages professed in the play are universal, so it matters little whether it is a feminine or masculine voice communicating them.
Echo: What themes are throughout the show and which speaks to you?
Davis: That’s a doozy of a question. The show hits on many topics and themes. The main thing I want people to take away is that the world and how we treat it, and each other is our responsibility. We can’t blame God, the Bible or religion. We cannot continue to interpret the vastness of the written word to fit our own narrow construct of what we prefer. There are so many religions, so many beliefs, so many faiths. None are superior. That which you choose to do in your life or to influence others peoples’ lives is on you. You have to take responsibility for what you unleash on the world. I’d prefer if people would stop unleashing hatred and judgment over love and tolerance.
Echo: How will this play appeal to the LGBTQ audience?
Davis: The LGBT[Q] audience will absolutely love this show. It is fully embracing of the community. In fact, God clears up any misunderstanding and misinterpretations about what the bible says, or rather does not say, regarding sexual orientation. The LGBT[Q] community will feel particularly welcome and satisfied.
Echo: What drew you to the theater?
Davis: Ha! That’s easy. When I was 13, I listened to my mom’s West Side Story album and I was hooked. A life in musical theater would be all I’d ever need. When I finally made my Broadway debut in Chicago, I knew I’d made it. Everything else, the other roles, straight plays, hosting television, etc., has been icing on the cake.
An Act of God
Thru Dec. 4
Arizona Theatre Company
Herberger Theater Center
222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix
Tickets: $25-$100; 602-256-6995