by Ed Malin · August 16, 2015
Metaphors abound in God is a Woman, a new play by Mitchell Buckley, directed by Nicky Maggio.
Before the action starts, we see onstage several humans wearing animal costumes, locked in cages. The animals are let out and play a disturbing game of musical chairs in which they are eliminated by a human observer. Is this an editorial on God’s cruel interaction with our species? What if God were a woman? That would be better, right?
In this story, Avery (Jordan Skinner) is shown at various ages to be up against harsh forces of fate and retribution. Third grader Avery is forced by his bully of a Dad (Steven Russo) to read the poems he wrote which caused a disturbance in school. While Mom (Alexandra Allwine) watches, Dad overreacts to the emotional poems, burns Avery with a cigarette, and makes him promise never to write again. A mature Avery loses his job—the focus of his life—but takes comfort from talking to an Angel (Jamie Davenport). This Angel had lived a short life before she was murdered by the Nazis; now she has left Heaven and is happy to have found one person on Earth who can see her. All of these things are observed by God (Jenny Statter), an amused, arrogant female deity, who has, she admits, no power to influence human events. Speaking to her lovely assistant, the more personable “Voice” (Josephine Cooper), God wonders why Angel is complaining; she died of pneumonia—fine, it was in a concentration camp—pneumonia’s not that bad. God previously took over from Zeus (Steven Russo) whom she keeps in chains but decides to let design a new casino.
God wants to know why Angel left Heaven. It turns out, Angel wants justice for the events of her life, and she persuades Avery to take revenge on whoever is left on Earth who is even remotely to blame for her suffering. Sure enough, despite Voice’s reasonings, God makes an example of and neutralizes Angel. Will Avery go through with the planned revenge? Before this can be answered, Avery speaks to a shy neighborhood woman who has disfiguring burn marks on her face (Alexandra Allwine). Avery thinks this interaction will make him more human. The result is unexpectedly shocking and cathartic.
This is a moving play about inhumanity. Power would apparently corrupt even a female God, which is a great point. The only antidote here is to be extremely compassionate, which works until one is abused by the authorities and turns to vengeance instead. The range of emotions is a lot to ask, and the excellent cast delivers. Nicky Maggio’s direction shows the transformation of these characters from free and expressive to tortured and bent, and sometimes back again. Particularly funny was a brief monologue spoken by Zeus, who, we were told, had his tongue cut out 4,000 years ago. Rebecca Carr’s set pieces, including the cages, are used in many innovative ways.