MAN OF GOD (InterAct): Worthy of praise

It’s the silence that speaks Man of God’s meaning. This new, short, fascinating play by Anna Moench, with its exceptionally fine cast and directed with great imagination by Maura Krause, just opened at InterAct Theatre, and it is not to be missed.

The man of God of the sneering title is the Pastor of a Korean-American church. He (Justin Jain) has brought four teenage girls from his Los Angeles congregation on a Christian mission to Bangkok, presumably to spread the word in the city’s famous red-light district,“the place weird German sex fiends come to diddle little boys dressed as little girls.” They discover that someone—and all fingers point at the Pastor—has hidden a camera in their bathroom.

What now? 

The hotel room they are sharing—great set designed by You-Shin Chen—is both convincingly messy and a surreal arena for their revenge fantasies, aided by some nifty lighting designed by Maria Shaplin; the most impressive scene—both funny and fierce—is a Ninja-warrior fight with gleaming swords (Eli Lynn’s fight choreography). The show manages to be both deadly serious and hilarious at the same time; these subtle actors can pivot and shift tone on a dime.

The four personalities are revealed in their reactions to the crisis: 

Jen (Annie Fang) is the smart one, the classic Asian overachiever who is planning to be both a doctor and a lawyer,  whose feminist consciousness governs all her judgments: “Everything is sexist with you.” “Well, yeah…”

Samantha (Kimie Muroya) is the naive one, full of misinformation and fear. Mimi (Stephanie Kyung Sun Walters) is the tough one whose cursing and blaspheming shocks the others, but whose vulnerability will be revealed during a terrible phone call to her mother. Kyung-Hwa (Claris Park) is both the bravest and the most repressed, as she reveals her obsession with men as victims of male lust and her awful history of abuse.

The final scene, filled with thick silence, is brilliant: don’t take your eyes off the Pastor.

[InterAct Theatre Co. at  the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake, 302 Hicks Street] Through Feb.16

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