What it's about.
Is God Is is a tragically funny drama about twin sisters from the Dirty South who travel to the hills of California to follow through on a revenge plan requested by God, their mother.
An episode of Scooby Doo is playing on a really small, vintage looking television on the upper left side of a very small stage. The static is distracting. Or it could be the fact that it’s day one of Lent and my body is in a stage of emergency. All I can think about as I sit in my seat waiting for the show to start is the hyper awareness of my sense of smell. I smell pretzels, beer (not even pleasant but somehow weirdly tempting), coffee and of course chocolate since today is the beloved V Day (someone kill me!) I have to somehow focus for an hour and a half running on Lent calories (i.e. VERY little) and my body is betraying me with its inability to focus on ANYTHING but food.
The show begins and I can finally set my attention on something else. If I could describe this show in one word, it would be CRAY. Twin sisters appear on stage with visible burn marks - Racine's entire right arm and Anaia's entire face. They receive a letter from their mother wanting them to come visit her in the hospital despite the fact that they were so sure that she was dead (after the fire that took place when they were three, they bounced around to different foster homes).
The mother's monologue about the fire had me shook! That her husband could look at her living body and set her on fire is just disturbing! While we never see her full body, we can tell based on her descriptions and the sisters' reactions that her entire body was completely burned. Upon meeting her daughters again for the first time in years, she asks them to seek out revenge against their father. She tells them that she wouldn't be able to die in peace without knowing he's dead. And the crazy part is, they agree!
The entire rest of the show revolves around this mission but what baffled me most was that they called their mother "God". The association between their mother - someone who never made her presence known to them after the age of three and who asks them to essentially commit murder against her husband and anyone close to him - and God saddened me. It's this subliminal assumption that their God would want them to do something so inhumane as a reward or justification for what they'd been through. As someone who believes in God, it's almost painful that people have that view of God. That he's vengeful and cruel and would ever ask us to perform disturbing acts against one another.
This show was dark and twisted. But the small moments of comic relief were actually what I enjoyed most. The entire cast was black, which is always nice to see, and the dialogue reflected that so much that there were moments where only a handful of the audience was able to laugh (*cough* the black people *cough*). My favorite thing was when Anaia and Racine would communicate with only sound effects and no words. It usually happened when they were insulted or shocked which is something that I know I've done before. In those scenes, I knew almost exactly what they were telling each other and looking around, I knew those who also could and those who had no clue what was happening. I was actually proud to laugh loudly in those moments, feeling like I somehow had inside knowledge that only few of us had.
It was refreshing to see a play like this. The playwright, director and cast were all people of color and the whole premise of the play is that two black women take action into their own hands without needing assistance or permission from anyone but the simple instruction from their 'God', who is their mother. While I didn't like the way God was used here, overall I can say I've never experienced anything like this one. Let me not forget to mention: I've NEVER seen a small stage be transformed quite like this one. It goes from being super small with not much usable space to being pushed out multiple times to create depth and drama that I would NOT have been able to predict would be possible. Every time they pushed the set further back, I was like:
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