Ethan Coen’s Holy Night

hamilton 012108 Ethan Coen’s Holy NightIt must be fun to play God. F. Murray Abraham, the 68-year-old actor, would know, as he plays “God Who Judges” in “Debate,” one of the triptych of short plays written by Ethan Coen at the Atlantic Theater Company’s staging of Almost an Evening. “It’s a treat,” Mr. Abraham told The Observer over the phone. “This is the good stuff, the good material, and you don’t see too much of that these days.”

Although Mr. Abraham is best known for his 1984 Oscar-winning role as the vengeful Antonio Salieri in Amadeus, in Almost an Evening he plays a hollering, pissed-off God who calls his audience boobs for not following the Ten Commandments to his satisfaction. He also wars with the God of Love, played by Mark Linn-Baker (best known as Larry Appleton in Perfect Strangers). After they debate which god has the best approach for wielding their heavenly powers, they kick each other in the ass. (The plays also feature Jonathan Cake and Elizabeth Marvel.)Mr. Abraham was inspired by remembering a rehearsal for an Academy Awards ceremony in which Billy Wilder, John Huston and Japanese Samurai movie director Akira Kurosawa were all standing together onstage. “All I thought about was those three gods up there, and I’m sure each would be delighted to be kicking the other’s ass,” he said with a chuckle.

The was a gang member in El Paso, Texas, before a drama teacher turned him on to acting. After college in Austin, he moved to the city to study with the great New York actress Uta Hagen, who also taught Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Although Mr. Abraham has a foreboding presence onstage, he’s really just a softie. He enjoys living close to his granddaughter downtown and walking her to school. “My granddaughter is turning 5 in five days,” he said. “I’ve become so fucking predictable.”

 

Almost an Evening is in previews at the Atlantic Theater Stage Two, 330 West 16th Street; it opens on January 22. Performances are Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets, visit http://www.ticketcentral.com or call 212-279-4200.