Every once in a while you see a piece that’s so bad you wonder if you should even watch it again. I decided “yes” because my readers need to be encouraged to spend their theater dollars on another play.
What’s wrong with this production, you might ask? How about everything, starting with Anna Ouyang Moench’s poorly written sophomore script and the childish and unimaginative direction of Maggie Burrows, who, by the way, did a great job in “TRAYF” as well. recently featured on Geffen Playhouse’s Intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Stage. His list of impressive credits was not reflected in this production. As a director, her job is to help the actors create a fully updated and believable performance, which she failed to do. Most of the actors, with the exception of Erin Rae Li (Mimi) who has theater credits, the rest of the ensemble are mostly film actors who seriously overacted in this production. Not every actor can make the jump from film to stage, and Burrows’ direction has crafted performances that border on high school or college level with plenty of screaming, with some of the actors not exceeding the reads at times. As for the subtext, well, forget it.
So what’s the story? Four young girls who are members of a group of Korean Christian girls are on a religious mission in Bangkok organized by their pastor, played by Albert Park, who certainly deserves better. Mimi, discovers a hidden camera in their bathroom and realizing that she is the property of their church, concludes that the pastor must be the one who planted her for his pleasure. Angry and disappointed at this betrayal of their trust, the girls begin to devise a plan to punish him. They fantasize about several different ways to kill him, one of which is a sword fight between Samantha (Shirley Chen) and the pastor, beautifully choreographed by fight director Thomas Isao Morinaka and enhanced by color lighting design. Lap Chi Chu candy. Original music and sound design by Jonathan Snipes nicely augment the action set against Se Oh’s simple set design reflecting a fairly cheap hotel room, with the girls dressed in colorful, age-appropriate teenage costumes. age of Denitsa Bliznakova. Another fantastic scene takes place in a bar with the pastor and Mimi (Erin Rae Li) sitting at a table. As she leaves, she turns around and shoots him in the back of the neck. The time has come for the pastor, who we assume is naked in the bathtub, to receive his punishment. The girls, including Jen (Emma Galbraith) and Samantha (Kyung-Hwa) are dressed in medical uniforms, and we have to assume that they performed a radical, more than slightly exaggerated, circumcision and removed a kidney and are about to to remove the second.
Billed as a fun feminist piece, let me assure you there’s nothing funny about these procedurals or feminist, unless you think you frequently drop the “F-Bomb” of these supposed nice girls women, some of whom would fit into a gang, is feminism. The only thing that’s laughable is Burrows’ terribly poor directing, whose acting often has the girls jumping from bed to bed, sometimes screaming or swallowing their lines. Getting back to the script, I remember that old show biz axiom: “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.” This production reflects that trope, but on steroids.
Don’t make a mistake. Sexual predators are a real and present danger to women of all ages and deserve to be treated seriously. That said, taking a serious subject and exploring it in a comedic way is a familiar and interesting theatrical approach, but it has to start with a great script and a director who can guide the production and get the best possible performances from his cast. In the case of MAN OF GOD, attempts at comedy fell like lead balloons with only the occasional chuckle from the audience.
I should point out that MAN OF GOD had its world premiere in 2019 at East West Players, the country’s first professional Asian-American theater. In 2020 production moved to the Geffen Playhouse but due to COVID closed after only nine performances. In this case, art director Matt Shakman should have let sleeping dogs lie, which is derived from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “It’s no good a sleeping hound to wake.”
“Man of God”
Audrey Skirball Kennis Theater
The Geffen Theater
10886 Avenue du Conte
Los Angeles, California 90024
Tuesday to Friday: 8:00 p.m.
Saturday: 3:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.
Sunday: 2 p.m. & 7 p.m.
Closing: Sunday June 19, 2022
Duration: 90 minutes – without intermission
Tickets: $30 – $129