"To err is human; to forgive, divine." It's the second part of this old, familiar saying that is at the heart of this intriguing, often witty playlet written and directed by Tom Bottelsen. Remorseful Lucifer, aka Lou (Tripp Pickell) wishes to reconcile with God, aka Jo, as in Jehovah (Emily Haase). To do that, he must serve as trial lawyer for anyone denied entrance into heaven. If he can win such a case, then he will be allowed to appeal his own conviction.
This setup leads to the case of Man v. God. Man (Bottelsen) is a single human representing all of mankind, and St. Peter (David Cheaney) refuses to allow him to pass through the Pearly Gates because he practiced the wrong religion while alive. Man, who has lived a good, productive life and been a loving husband, father, and friend, is appropriately outraged to learn that the "right" religion is a combination of religions—who knew?!—and so enlists Lucifer's aid in protesting his assignment to hell.
The show plays only one night a week—a task harder than it sounds. It's difficult to stay solidly on top of everything with such a light schedule, and the evidence of it is clear in the tripped-up lines and lackadaisical performances.
There's obviously quite a bit of material for Bottelsen to play with here, and he does so with brevity and levity. But at a mere 35 minutes, the piece, though enjoyable, feels too short and flimsy. There's plenty of room for growth and for a more thorough exploration of character and situation. It is also, at the moment, mostly devil-may-care fun. But there is a great opportunity here to more seriously examine some of the issues touched upon, such as the life-altering power of forgiveness and the concept of "right" and "wrong" religions. That doesn't mean the humor should go—quite the opposite. But if Bottelsen chooses to, he could support that humor with something a bit more substantial and thought-provoking.
"Lucifer's Lament," presented by Theatre Neo at the Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Thu. 8 p.m. Sep. 15-Oct. 6. $8. (323) 769-5858.