Monday, January 28, 2019

God Said This

B-

Primary Stages is presenting the New York premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler’s (Kentucky) semi-autobiographical family drama with comic overtones, well-received at last year’s Humana Festival in Louisville. Hiro (Satomi Blair; These Seven Sicknesses) is a brittle late-30’s New York account executive who fled her Kentucky family, particularly her emotionally abusive father, about 15 years ago. She has reluctantly returned home to visit her long-suffering mother Masako (Ako; Kentucky) who is completing a debilitating round of chemotherapy for cancer. Masako is a Japanese musician who emigrated to Japan as a young adult. Her married younger daughter Sophie (Emma Kikue) has found comfort by becoming a born-again Christian. We get to know Masako’s husband James (Jay Patterson; K2, Inherit the Wind) through his remarks at a series of AA meetings. A remarkable recovery from cirrhosis has led him to become a gentler person whose current interests include karaoke and rock collection. Masako’s wish is that everyone in the family get along peacefully during Hiro’s visit. There is a fifth character, John (Tom Coiner), a high school acquaintance of Hiro’s, with whom she reestablishes contact in time for her visit. He is now a single father worried about leaving a legacy for his son. While John is a well-drawn character who enlivens the play whenever he appears, I think the play would have been better if it had kept its sole focus on the family members. Winkler has a way with relatable characters and a satiric touch that takes the edge off a basically tragic situation. The play raises the issue of the good being punished while the undeserving thrive without providing any illuminating insights. The cast is uniformly strong. The set by Arnulfo Maldonado (Men on Boats, Bobbie Clearly) recreates a rather upscale hospital private room with faux-wood paneling and a nice upholstered chair. Jessica Pabst’s (Marvin’s Room, The Amateurs) costumes befit their characters. Director Morgan Gould (Kentucky) shows an affinity for the material. There are some fine moments, but the play drags occasionally and the various strands do not come together with complete success. Running time: one hour 45 minutes; no intermission.

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