by Martin Denton · November 15, 2013
For a long time, most people on Earth believed in many gods who collectively made the universe and ran it, for better or for worse. More recently, and right on up through today, there are many people who believe in a single god. How did that happen? Were both theories true: were there many and then there was one? And, perhaps more fundamentally, where did all of the gods come from? Who created them?
All of these questions--so heady and essential, at the core of our effort to understand our world and our place as humans within it--are the crux of Lone Wolf Tribe's new theater piece The God Projekt. Conceived by Kevin Augustine and written and directed by Kevin and Edward Einhorn (with support from dramaturg Dillon Slagle and creative consultants John Clancy and Morgan Jenness), The God Projekt is aptly named, because it considers the idea of god (and God, the one in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim scriptures) from a number of different perspectives and angles.
When we first meet him/Him, God is seen as a tired, forgetful old man (see photo above) who is trying to keep up with an ever-increasing workload all on his own ("You have 43 trillion phone messages," his voice mail intones at one point). Aroused by an increasing number of people who doubt his word as recorded in the bible, he has decided to make videos that will silence non-believers: Project #31 on his enormous workload is to record how he created man from the dust of the Earth.
In the play's second act, God is decked out in a tacky blue suit and fancy ruffled shirt, like a washed-up, out-of-date Vegas headliner. He recounts a story we probably haven't heard before, about the woman he loved but destroyed. Wracked with grief and guilt, he's reaching the end of his rope. What will become of him? And what will become of us?
The God Projekt is dense with intellectual and spiritual explorations, and I think a number of different interpretations and readings of Kevin and Edward's theses/hypotheses are possible. Like any religious examination, the answer is finally very personal.
This piece, premiering in La MaMa's 2013 Puppet Series, is the culmination of more than a decade of creation on the part of Kevin; we've seen these characters and themes in different forms in his earlier 10 (2000) and Bride (2008). It's immense--nearly two and a half hours long, with an elaborate set (designed by Gian Marco Lo Forte, with props by Kevin's frequent collaborator Gloria Sun), sophisticated multimedia elements, and several very large puppets (designed and mostly operated by Kevin). Fans of Kevin's earlier work may be disappointed that there's less interaction with the puppets than in shows like Animal and Big Top Machine, but there are some stand-out moments of pure unadulterated theater magic (the specifics of which I will not of course reveal here). This is perhaps the finest showcase for Kevin's remarkable range and ability as an actor that I've ever seen: he rails like Lear and spars like a Borscht Belt comedian; there's sad, introspective clowning that reminded me of Emmett Kelly and broad over-the-top audience interplay that reminded me of Dame Edna.
I've been following Kevin Augustine's work for about 15 years now, and have known him well for more than a decade; his artistry and craftsmanship are awe-inspiring and his quest to understand the human condition continues to take him and his Lone Wolf Tribe on journeys that are funny, incisive, and often downright terrifying. He's a brave man, and The God Projekt is a brave show.