By Constance Rodgers
Luisa Omielan‘s one-woman show, God Is A Woman, opens with the convivial British comedian dancing around to Ariana Grande, chatting with the audience, and handing out surprisingly delicious cake pops. She begins her historically minded set with irreverent take downs of the Abrahamic faiths, featuring hilarious Eddie Izzard-esque act-outs, including a hot hipster Jesus courting a sheltered Mary Magdalene. At this point you would be forgiven for thinking you’re in for just another erudite, fun evening of playfully provocative British stand-up. However, the piece takes a turn into unexpectedly confessional territory as Omielan weaves her observations on the sidelining of women’s roles in religion with the story of her mother’s battle with cancer, and you suddenly find yourself choking up in between fits of laughter.
Omielan tells us her previous three one woman shows were about “Beyonce and thigh gaps”, a viral ready type of pop feminism. Omielan was very close to her religious single mom and when her mother passed away a few years ago Luisa declared she found the idea of continuing this kind of pop comedy work to be a “trifle”. And so, the second half of the piece, like this new chapter of her life, is less wry take downs and more an exploration of grief and her journey to make peace with it all. It’s still funny of course particularly her burgeoning friendship with a young Pakistani carpenter. Her attraction to him as he helps her build a new home is portrayed with hilarious physicality and parallels with the earlier story of Jesus (the carpenter) and Mary Magdalene nicely. But there is also an inherent sadness in seeing the harsh real world implications of women’s place in society, which in the first half are presented as just jokes.
Like with any stand-up your mileage may vary as far as the appreciation of individual jokes. For example, it’s a very minor nit pick, and maybe something she threw in for a New York crowd, but an early throw away gag about tipping in America rubbed me the wrong way. Some will find her anthropological explanations of how women became second class citizens a bit oversimplified.
In the end Luisa Omielan injects the phrase “god is a woman” with a literal meaning in the form of her mother, and of course, all of our mothers.
Omielan is the recipient of the BAFTA Breakthrough in Comedy award and is applauded by the clever and prolific British comedian Dawn French.
God is a Woman, Written, Directed and Performed by Luisa Omielan. Limited run at Soho Playhouse Main Stage 15 Vandam St; Sept 20-Oct 6th Thursdays-Sundays 9:pm, Running Time 75 mins,
All tickets $39. Tickets available at box office, 15 Vandam St Tues-Sun 5:30pm – 10:30 pm, by phone (212) 691-1555 or on line at Vendi