There may be a special circle of hell — or at least a spot on the wall at Joe Allen restaurant — for “Only Human,” the purgatorial new musical that opened Monday at Off Broadway’s Theatre at St. Clement’s. Yes, this is a musical starring Gary Busey as God — and I confess I was hoping the show might fall in the so-bad-it’s-good camp. Or even just the camp camp. But the results are sadly more earth-bound.
Instead of focusing on its Almightiest asset, “Only Human” centers almost entirely on an unholy trinity of heaven’s middle management as they workshop the creation of humanity — and then its fall-out: Lou (Mike Squillante), short for Lucifer, is a vain know-it-all who wants to craft the new species in his own image; Jay (Evan Maltby), short for you-know-who, is the ne’er-do-well stoner son of the Boss who uses a pizza box as a pillow; and Maggie (Kim Steele), short for Mary Magdalene, is the highly competent and easily dismissed woman forced to make a case for gender equity: “I think my vagina is a blessing — hashtag blessed.”
But once Lou gets banished from heaven’s front office, the juvenile, F-bomb-dropping narrative (book by Jess Carson) collapses into a meandering series of head-scratching reversals. Characters change direction and motivation on a whim, sometimes more than once within a single scene, or song.
The pop-lite score, written by Squillante (who also gives himself a second-act guitar solo because why not?), is at least competent if sadly derivative and unmemorable.
The funny thing is that Busey, with his shambling appearance and stutter-stop delivery of non sequitur Buseyisms (“FUN stands for Finally Understanding Nothing”) is easily the best part of director NJ Agwuna’s production. But his not-quite-divine presence is mysteriously missing for vast chunks of this Busey-forsaken mess of a show.
According to the Playbill, the producers of “Only Human” include a litigation attorney, a couple from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a horse rehabilitation expert and a student at Oklahoma State. Say a prayer that her tuition is fully paid up for next semester.