PicksInSix Review: ACT(S) OF GOD
Six characters in search of something.
With a teasing setup about a family gathering impacted by a letter that will alter lives, Kareem Bandealy’s dark comedy “Act(s) of God” was already a fascinating curiosity before anyone took their seats at Lookingglass Theatre Friday evening. As the play unfolds, it becomes curiouser and curiouser—a sprawling three-act theatrical experience better to be discovered than recalled.
There is, as advertised, a family weekend in a desert-plains home. It begins Friday, April 13, 2029, in a living room that has a ’60s-era retro-provincial feel. An old-time radio broadcasts an interview on a cosmic anomaly. While Mother (Shannon Cochran) busily sorts the mail, Father (Rom Barkhordar), a theologian, philosopher and narcoleptic, reads nearby. One of the letters is impossible to open. When their son Middle (Anthony Irons) arrives with Fiancée (Emjoy Gavino) and Youngest (Walter Briggs), and the power appears to fail, it becomes clear that other forces are at work, particularly when Eldest (Kristina Valada-Viars) finally drops in.
The deep convictions of Bandealy’s characters form the context of Director Heidi Stillman’s finely paced production about six characters in search of something. Mother provides the spiritual center of the family, a woman whose faith in God is reflected in her two sons, and shared by Father, although the men are skeptical about her conviction that God is a woman. Eldest, a lesbian writer, is more attuned to Father’s pragmatic views. She is at odds spiritually with Mother and Middle, whose grounded nature has brought him success, but little confidence or emotional security with his long-standing Fiancée. The impressionable Youngest has teetered between Mother’s obsessive nurturing and the radical views of Eldest all his life.
Technologically, we seem to be all over the map in 2029. There are state-of-the-art smart phones and something called “Telepathy 2.0” with wall clocks, Bundt cake, fruit, whiskey and trains. In its most reflective moments, Father recounts parables while Middle references the sciences comparing Mother to lonsdaleite, an element much harder and rarer than diamonds.
When a misunderstanding arises between Middle and Eldest, the resulting pent-up hostilities spiral out of control like any other family where age-old frictions exist, pivoting the trajectory of the work in another direction. It is then that the seasoned ensemble navigates a series of twists and turns on the way to unravelling everything that has come before.
The versatile Brian Sidney Bembridge’s set and lighting are exceptional feats of engineering. The Mara Blumenfeld costumes, Rick Sims sound—the aural experience of this production is in a class by itself— and the collective skills of a wide-ranging list of technicians and craftsmen, all help to make the otherworldly “Acts(s) of God” a clever, absurdist adventure.
LOOKINGGLASS THEATRE COMPANY
ACT(S) OF GOD
through April 7th
821 N Michigan Ave.
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