Reviewed by Alec Clayton
|Jim Winkler and Aya Hashiguchi|
James (Jim Winkler) is a gruff, profane and loveable Kentucky hillbilly, a recovering alcoholic obsessed with collecting and selling rocks. He serves as character in and narrator of Leah Nanako Winkler’s God Said This. The “audience” to his narration are fellow alcoholics (not seen on stage) at his AA meeting. He opens the play by introducing himself and saying he’s an alcoholic, that his wife, Masako (Aya Hashiguchi), is in the hospital with cancer, that his oldest daughter, Hiro (Leilani Berinobis), hates him, and his youngest daughter, Sophie (Jasmine Jaqua), has found religion. James and Hiro think Sophie’ religiosity is absurd, but Masako prays with her, and that just might have healing power.
During his drinking days, James was an abusive father. Now he wants to make up with his daughters, but they’re having nothing to do with it.
Hiro is a worldly rebel determined to crush the expectations of a dutiful Japanese-American girl. All of the women, in fact, shatter the cliched images of Japanese women, and James is nothing like the stereotypical redneck alcoholic. They are all well-rounded complex human beings.
Enter John (Jacob Tice), Hiro’s old high school friend. He is a single father who never left his Kentucky home, and Hiro assumes he’s a downhome, uncomplicated playboy. They get drunk and high together, and Hiro wants to “make out” (her term) with him. But he wants nothing to do with that. He wants their friendship to be one-hundred percent platonic (his terminology)—proving that he, like all the family, fits no stereotypes. He has a post-graduate degree and is dedicated to loving and protecting his thirteen-year-old son.
The cast is outstanding, including Berinobis as Hiro is a stand-in for the originally cast actor and had only four rehearsals before opening night. She performed with script in hand but did not need it all the time and did not let that hamper her performance.
Both Winkler and Tice fit so smoothly into their roles that it seems they are not acting at all.
Jaqua’s Sophie is the only character who comes close to behaving like the sweet and dutiful Japanese daughter. She is quiet and seemingly shy but stands up bravely in the practice of her brand of Christianity and surprises everyone from time to time with her rebelliousness (smoking a joint, for instance).
The family was not able to get along in the past, but in coming together to be with Masako they learn to forgive and to love one another.
Kudos to director Randy Clark, sound designer Niclas Olson and lighting designer Michelle Weingarden Bandes for their excellent work.
God Said This was the 2018 winner of the Yale Drama series competition chosen by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Aktar, who described it as conveying “a deeply felt sense of the universal—of the perfection of our parents’ flawed love for each other and for us . . .”
God Said This
7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through April 3
Dukesbay Theater, 508 6gh Ave. upstairs above the Grand Cinema (no handicap access)
$15 at DukesbahyGodSaidThis.eventrite.com