Monday, October 17, 2016

Taproot asks: Is God a game?

The cast of The God Game (Erik Stuhaug)
The God Game
Taproot Theatre
Through October 29, 2016

Somehow, in the late 20th century through 2016, there has appeared a religious test in our political societal vetting. Particularly for Republicans, often one must be devoutly Christian and loudly and visibly so. It may be that Trump is disrupting this idea, since he seems to barely know his Two Corinthians from his Thou Shalt Nots.

However, it’s enough of a “thing” that playwright Suzanne Bradbeer has crafted a play, set in the most present present, where a Senator is pressed to call upon Jesus and visibly display his faith during an election process.

The God Game displays the trenchant options in the political set, especially on the national stage. Here, Tom (played by David Drummond) is a senator from Virginia, well thought of and highly approved of, who is tapped to be vetted for a vice presidential running mate option. The presidential candidate is a controversial one, sounding similar to the disruptive Trump, but smart enough to want to have a diversity of opinions on his team.

The person who comes to Tom and Lisa’s home to present this option is a very old family friend, Matt (Cobey Mandarino). Matt happens to also be a former partner to Tom’s now-deceased brother. He’s also been best friends with Lisa (Nikki Visel) for many years, but after the funeral has become estranged from them.

Tom is excited about the opportunity, but Lisa is concerned. Tom diverges from many Republican trope issues. Tom is, for instance, a believer in climate change, another of the beliefs many Republicans have caused politicians to religiously eschew in order to be elected. He wants to make sure that his voice will be heard by the presidential candidate. Matt assures Tom that the presidential candidate will hear Tom’s views on this.

But the biggest issue in front of them is that Tom may not be the most Christian of Christians, at this point and, in a national campaign, that could cause huge problems for not only his being picked for vice president, but for the rest of his future political career.

Lisa is a devout believer, though she is very open and tolerant toward Tom’s issues. Matt seems to suggest that Tom “sprinkle a few more Jesuses into the conversation” and quote a few more Bible passages and that would likely allay any fears. Lisa refuses to allow Tom to “use” religious beliefs to falsely suggest he is more devout than is real.

The three actors here are more than up to the challenge of this script, and the script generally does a good job of exploring these issues. Visel has a rather smaller role, but some very choice moments where her character scores some very important points.

Tightly directed by Carol Roscoe, the script comes off well, though the relationship controversies are over-wrought and strain believability. There does not seem to be huge reasons why Matt should be so tightly entwined in the history of this couple. The idea that he, as a homosexual, is accepted into the inner circle of this presidential candidate is fine, but it is too pat for Matt to also be the former lover of Tom’s brother.

This is a production in Taproot’s smaller theater, the Isaac Studio, so the production values are diminished. Costumes for Tom and Lisa are quite well done by Janessa Jayne Styck, but I had a big problem with the distracting frumpiness and overly casual nature of what Matt was wearing. Tom and Lisa are dressed up while they are at home, while Matt is on business and looks far less professional than the couple.

The script gets a bit didactic and talky, but generally gets the job done. If you would like a chance to see people talking about whether religion should or should not be part of political discourse, this is a great play to see.

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