Suzanne Bradbeer’s 2014 play, “The God Game,” is strikingly relevant for today’s headlines in its even-handed look at religious faith in elections and private lives. Sonorous Road Theatre’s staging puts the script’s points across effectively despite some problematic elements.
Tom, a moderate, well-liked Republican senator, and Lisa, his wife, get a surprise visit from Matt, an adviser to a Republican presidential candidate. Matt brings word that the candidate wants Tom for his running mate.
There’s one big problem: Tom’s current lack of religious faith, caused by his brother’s recent death in a car accident. With the presidential candidate touting his religion and Lisa being a fully committed Christian, Tom is concerned about what he’d have to fake in the campaign.
Matt urges Tom to play along to get the nomination, Lisa worries national attention will expose the “God problem” and Tom wrestles with lying to gain a desired platform. Things are further complicated because Matt was in a relationship with Tom’s brother for a while and now hides his orientation to work with the campaign.
Director June Guralnick moves her actors around naturally and gets nicely individualized characterizations. Beau Clark’s Matt is playfully upbeat with Tom and properly contrite with Lisa, who blames him for her brother-in-law’s death. Courtney Christison skillfully projects Lisa’s anger, fear and devotion. David Hudson makes Tom’s dilemma real, a likeable portrait of a good man facing moral choices.
But the pacing suffers because Clark often speaks in relaxed, hushed tones, Christison breaks up lines with too many pregnant pauses and Hudson physicalizes his thoughts with multiple gestures before most lines. Also, adding an intermission and showing original and historical videos before each act turns what should have been a fleet 90 minutes into a 140-minute stretch.
Miyuki Su and Jeffrey Nugent’s living room set is impressive but unrealistically large (four walls enclose the whole audience), with video screens embedded in each wall and redundant images projected outside the screens.
Adding an actor as the unscripted brother in three silent appearances and unnaturally reducing the lighting for important monologues further indicates a lack of trust in the well-written material and in the audience’s imagination.
Still, the overall impact is quite thought provoking, providing useful insights no matter what one’s faith, or lack of it.
What: “The God Game”
Where: Sonorous Road Theatre, 209 Oberlin Road, Raleigh
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 10-11, 16-18; 3 p.m. Feb. 12, 19
Tickets: $18 (students/seniors $15)
Info: 919-803-3798 or sonorousroad.com/the-god-game