Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Man of God
Also see Zander's review of Smokey Joe's Cafe
Four young Korean-American women are stationed in a Bangkok hotel room. Two large beds, with gold spreads upon them, are predominant. The place is kind of a fun mess, with clothing and bathroom items all over. Kyung-Hwa (Ji-Young Yoo) just found a tiny camera, positioned upward, underneath the toilet of their bathroom. The young women react verbally and physically, allowing a release of inhibitions.
The four are very different types of people, yet all are Christian and all have purpose. There's a bit of conversation about labeling their time together: is this a mission or a vacation? After all, they're teenagers and away from home, brought here by their Pastor (Albert Park), who is also staying at the hotel. Could it possibly be that he planted the camera?
Moench stocks her play with edgy conversation, commentary about the value of feminism, education and religion. Several fantasy sequences are bizarre, surreal, and almost science fiction in feel. Director Maggie Burrows wisely pushes the pace of the show and, when it is frantic, that epitomizes the range of emotional response as the women discover just what goes on.
Kyung-Hwa is devout and believes "Jesus saved me," while the very young looking Samantha (Shirley Chen) is innocent and unaware. Emma Galbraith plays Jen, who is studious, concerned about upcoming college, and vociferous with her opinions. Call her judgmental. Finally, Mimi (Erin Rae Li) is boisterous, blistering with a full array of spoken obscenities and free with her feelings.
When Albert Park's Pastor is on stage, he seems to be controlled and, for short intervals, carries himself like he's the only adult in the room. The truth is that Pastor is internally raging and, rather than rational, the controller. One word suffices here: creepy.
These women cannot find a common response to the predicament. Here they are, in a section of a foreign city that's a center of prostitution and trafficking, stuck in a room–without any true access to Pastor. They're fielding parents' phone calls from home and they just might be in harm's way; the man could be dangerous. They re impressionable and, as churchgoers, were, no doubt, taught to trust their male leader. Some in the contingent are more skeptical than others.
One appealing aspect of this play is that peril is acknowledged through darkly comic response. The girls laugh and there isn't any reason why the audience shouldn't partake as well. The zealous cast has been together for a time, having performed together on the West Coast, and each actor is impressive. Precision timing enables them to perform with wide-ranging emotions.
The production draws benefit from its elements: Lap Chi Chu's bold lighting and Jonathan Snipes' blaring original music. When the women wield swords, they do so with discipline, thanks to fight director Thomas Isao Morinaka.
The play, an important one, takes itself seriously while leaving plenty of space for spot-on imaginative performance.
Man of God runs through July 22, 2022, on the Nikos Stage at Williamstown Theatre Festival, 84 Spring St., Williamstown MA. For tickets and information call 413-458-3253 or visit wtfestival.org.