The show, roughly a 90-minute monologue based on The Last Testament: A Memoir By God and the @TheTweetofGod Twitter account, both created by Daily Show producer David Javerbaum, sees the Almighty offer up a new set of commandments in response to the current state of affairs. Jim Parsons first embodied the role of God, when the play opened on Broadway last year, with Hayes taking over for limited engagements in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“It’s such an important show, I think now more than ever, because it discusses what’s being discussed seemingly every day on the news and everywhere we go, which is religion,” Hayes says. “I love the message of the play too, and to have the message delivered in such a clever, witty, entertaining way is something I’m very passionate about.”
The dialogue itself is a mix of sarcasm, quick wit, and a few instances of shady pop culture references. “They’re still relevant, which is astonishing,” Hayes says of the jokes, which audiences first may have read on Javerbaum’s Twitter account or heard Parsons crack last year. “They all still work.”
“Right away, after reading the first two, three pages, I thought, 'This is bizarre because it’s written how I talk,'” Hayes says of the script. “It’s written in my voice -- my comedic voice.”
The performance is his first on Broadway since earning a Tony nomination for the 2010 revival of Promises, Promises. “When you’re an actor, you wait for something this well-written,” Hayes says of his return to the stage. “I’ve been in the fortunate position to be offered many things over the years, to come back to Broadway. But not until this did I think it was the right fit for me.”
While An Act of God is a far different experience from the song and dance of his previous stage work, Hayes is quick to add that it’s just as daunting. “You’re still drenched in sweat after each performance from exuding the energy it takes to entertain an audience for so long,” he says. “It would be easy to just sit there and say the words, but to challenge yourself to be entertaining is a lot of work. I like that challenge.”
The production also comes as Will & Grace is being remembered 10 years after the series officially ended its eight-season run on NBC. Its final episode aired on May 18, 2006. The sitcom, which featured Hayes as the flamboyant Jack McFarland, made Hayes a star and earned him a Primetime Emmy Award during its run. “I can say this now, how lucky we were to be part of something so special and so important,” he offers.
He returned to NBC in the starring role of Sean Saves the World, which ran for 15 episodes, but in the decade since Will & Grace, Hayes has become a reliable guest star and successful TV producer. “I thought, ‘You have to multi-hyphenate in the business, now more than ever. You can’t be just one thing, otherwise I don’t know how long it’ll last,” he says of producing shows like Hollywood Game Night, Grimm, and Crowded.
“I’ve been talking about this with other actors who’ve been on shows -- who I won’t say in this interview -- but we always get asked, ‘When are you going to do another show?’ and I think what people mean by that is, ‘When are you going to do another great show?’ Hayes says, looking back on his TV work over the past decade. “It’s not that nobody tries, it just shines a light on the fact that how difficult it is to come up with a hit show.”
But then again, none of them involved playing God.
An Act of God is now in previews and official opens on Monday, June 6 at the Booth Theatre in New York City.