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Sonorous Road is currently running an extremely apt production that examines current political bents and the decidedly large role that religion is playing in them. In this current age of political upheaval, wherein our newly-elected president is scrutinizing the role that religion is to play in his administration, The God Game, by Suzanne Bradbeer, takes a serious look at today's political landscape and the increasingly stronger influence that religion is having on the body politic.
Bradbeer's play follows Tom (we never get a last name), a Republican junior senator from Virginia, in his run at the White House in the role of Vice President. In his Virginia home, Tom is engrossed in his laptop when he is joined by his wife, Lisa, who has decidedly other plans for the next few hours. This weekend marks their fifteenth wedding anniversary, and it is her desire that he spend the time engrossed in her, not politics. Tom (David Hudson) is an up-and-coming senator whose rise is to be noted; his stance on such issues as jobs, the economy, and even climate change have made him a political force noticed by the powers that be. So, while he and Lisa (Courtney Christison) argue over how the weekend is to be spent, they receive an unexpected guest. An old friend, Matt (Beau Clark), has come on an extremely important mission. For the past year, Matt has been working on the campaign of the current candidate for POTUS, the Republican governor from Indiana, James Jenkins. Jenkins has taken particular note of Tom, and has sent Matt in person to persuade him to be second on the ticket. Though unexpected, Tom has long been working toward such an offer.
There is, however, a fly in the ointment – make that two flies. First, this old friend has been conspicuously absent from the lives of Tom and Lisa for the last year, and not just because he has been busy on the campaign. Matt, who has known the family since their college years, was, until last year, the love interest of Tom's younger brother, Jay (Kyle Mears). Before taking his current job, Matt broke up with Jay and began a relationship with another man. This sent Jay into a depression that was a factor in the car accident that took Jay's life almost a year ago. So the fact that Matt has been absent from the lives of these two since the funeral makes his presence here now a bit problematic.
Second, and politically the more important factor, is that Gov. Jenkins, being the Republican nominee, is running a campaign that puts religion front and center. Jenkins is a far-right evangelical and is making his Christianity a major aspect of his current campaign. Thus, in sending Matt down from Washington to present Tom with this proposition, Jenkins has charged Matt with insisting that, as a part of the bargain, Jenkins would like Tom to become a little more vocal about his own relationship with God. Jenkins wants Tom to make religion an aspect of his campaign, as well. And this presents Tom with an unforeseen obstacle. Tom is agnostic. The fact that this is unknown to most is because, thus far in Tom's political career, his personal feelings on religion have not been an issue. Now, suddenly, they are.
Bradbeer drops the subject of religion into the play like a bomb, and it is the careful, multifaceted, and deep introspection of just how the characters will negotiate this rocky road that makes up the meat of this surprisingly engrossing play. They must work their way through a minefield of possible pitfalls as they slowly decide which way Tom is going to head in his political future.
The play takes place on the singular set of Tom and Lisa's home. Sonorous Road's depiction of their sitting room is simple but elegant, with tasteful colonial furniture, wall-ensconced bookcases flanking the sofa, and a large colonial map of Virginia upstage center. This striking map is duplicated on all three of the other walls of the theater as well; it is actually a multi-dimensional screen that shows, during several scenes in the play, a running commentary on what is happening on stage. This includes a pre-show of several of our past presidents discussing the long-standing rule of law regarding the separation of church and state. The screen is also used to depict Jay as Tom and Lisa remember him.
Director June Guralnick has chosen three highly pedigreed actors to portray the show's close-knit trio. Beau Clark is an actor and musician who trained at the College Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati over fifteen years ago, and who has plied these dual trades ever since. Courtney Christison is a native Tar Heel who trained at East Carolina and sports a long list of stage work in the Triangle area. David Hudson received his training in London, England, and has appeared with Burning Coal, the Justice Theatre Project, Theater in the Park, and The ArtsCenter, among others. These three displayed a durable bond, invoking the long relationship these characters have enjoyed together.
Sonorous Road brings an undeniably timely play to the stage that works out its problems with both careful analysis and some scintillating humor. This is an engrossing and enlightening play that is tightly woven by three skilled actors, who bring it to a satisfying conclusion. Sonorous Road's presentation of The God Game is a stunning analysis of current events, and you will feel better for having seen it. It is a living slice of current Americana.
The God Game continues through Sunday, February 19. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.