Produced by Emanuel Azenberg, the play opened on Broadway at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on December 11, 1974 and closed on March 23, 1975, after 119 performances and seven previews. Directed by Michael Bennett with Assistant Director Bob Avian, the cast featured Vincent Gardenia (Joe Benjamin), Maria Karnilova (Rose Benjamin), and Charles Nelson Reilly (Sidney Lipton). Scenic design was by William Ritman, costumes were by Joseph G. Aulisi and lighting was by Tharon Musser.
The setting of the play is a Long Island mansion. The household consists of a pious, God-fearing tycoon named Joe Benjamin and his family: a long-suffering wife, Rose, a prodigal son, David, a pair of kooky twins, Ben and Sarah, and the maid and butler, Mady and Morris. One night a messenger from God, Sidney Lipton (with a big G on his sweatshirt) arrives, and, as in the biblical story, goes through all manner of temptations to get Joe Benjamin to renounce God. When he refuses, he is visited by all the afflictions imaginable. He stands firm and the messenger has to admit defeat.
... this may be Mr. Simon's most imaginative play, it is not one of his better works. Not only is the opening slow, but also the ending is anticlimactic. If you have exploited tragedy for its humor, how do you get around a happy ending? ... More than any other Simon play, God's Favorite depends heavily on its staging and setting. Michael Bennett's direction lets all God break loose. ... William Ritman's collapsing mansion is some of the most fiendish theatrical real estate we have seen in years.
Thomas S. Hischak (Professor of Performing Arts, SUNY Cortland) wrote that Simon had been writing about "serious issues" in his last several plays, but "stumbled awkwardly" with God's Favorite. Hischak described the play as a "modern version of the story of Job that moved into schtick the closer it edged to genuine grief". Hischak noted that Simon had said that the play was written "as a reaction to his wife's untimely death from cancer".
The pre-production of God's Favorite was chronicled on a January 1975 edition of the CBS News program 60 Minutes.
- Konas, Gary (1997). Neil Simon: A Casebook. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-8153-2132-5.
- Barnes, Clive (12 December 1974). "God's Favorite is Simon's Job on L.I.". The New York Times. p. 59.
- "'God's Favorite" Listing" Internet Broadway Database listing, accessed April 9, 2012
- Hischak, Thomas S. (2001). "1969–1975". American Theatre: A chronicle of comedy and drama, 1969–2000. Oxford University Press. p. 81. ISBN 0-19-512347-6 – via books.google.com.
- Obsolete Video (2019-05-26), KABC-7 KNXT-2 1973-4 60 Minutes, retrieved 2019-05-26 (via YouTube; segment begins at 2:42)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to God's Favorite.|
- 'God's Favorite' (Neil Simon) Samuel French