Going into C.O.G. without having read David Sedaris' Naked, I found myself struggling with how I felt about it after the credits rolled. I couldn't get over how convenient its twits and turns were. Maybe it's following the source material perfectly, but maybe that's also why it worked as an essay backed up by the writer's voice and sense of humor.
David (Jonathan Groff), who has renamed himself Samuel for purposes of obtaining a new identity, sets out into the country to get away from everything that reminds him of his white privileged life back home. He does so while wearing his Yale sweater. See, now that's funny. The story retains this dark sense of humor as David gets a job picking apples for a racist, thick-headed man on the countryside. He barely learns a single lesson in hard work, minimally communicating with the spanish-speaking immigrants he works with. That is, until he decides to take a break from work to read. His boss sends him into town to get butane gas without a car and by the time he gets his wheezing self back, he's realized his lesson. No breaks. This excursion is also what leads him to Jon, (Denis O'Hare) the "Child Of God", pamphlet peddling, backwards Christian.
As the plot progressed, so did its pandering (at times too heavily) to its themes of sexuality and religion. If it weren't for the admirable, bare-bones performance by Groff, I may have lost interest somewhere in the mess of its second act. It's not a small feat to bring empathy to a character as pretentious and smug as the one Groff had to work with. I admire that director Kyle Patrick Alvarez set out to make this adaptation without any voice over, however it may have benefited from it because its dark but still humorous tone becomes quite stale and overridden by serious religious connotations.
Review by Ryan Kramer