CONTEMPORARY & INTELLIGENT: “THE GOD GAME” at Theatre Jacksonville

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THEATRE JACKSONVILLE REVIEW

A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM

On March 3rd, 2017 Theatre Jacksonville opened “The God Game,” a contemporary drama which will run through March 19th at 2032 San Marco Boulevard. Call 904-396-4425 or visit theatrejax.com for additional information and reservations.

Written by Suzanne Bradbeer, this intelligent offering opened in 2014, two years before our last Presidential election. She has created a distinctive piece of theater which explores timely topics related to political and religious issues.

The story takes place in Richmond, Virginia in the home of Tom and Lisa, who are preparing to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their marriage. Tom has had a successful political career and is currently a U.S. Senator; both he and Lisa are staunch Republicans. He is devoted to his work and as the play opens, Lisa is upset because he is paying more attention to his duties as a senator than to domestic issues.

Matt, a long-time personal friend of the family, is the only other character in the play. He is a campaign advisor to a Republican governor who has Presidential aspirations, and has sent Matt to persuade Tom to join him as the Vice Presidential candidate.

Tom has an excellent record and his forward-looking views on energy and climate change are well regarded.  A subplot which creates conflict is the fact that Matt is gay and he and Tom’s brother had once been lovers, although they parted a couple of years ago. Afterward, the brother died in an accident, and Lisa, somewhat irrationally, blames Matt.

We soon learn that while Matt considers him an outstanding choice for Vice President, there is one problem – a big problem. He just isn’t “Christian enough.” Tom readily admits he isn’t much of a churchgoer, in fact, his church attendance is largely limited to Christmas and Easter.  And he admires Thomas Jefferson, who created his own bible which was limited to only those words reportedly spoken by Jesus. But he also considers religious belief – or non-belief – a private matter, and he isn’t willing to agree to Tom’s suggestion that he finds ways to speak of love for Jesus.

Lisa, on the other hand, is a devout Christian, with a life filled with prayer. She runs a shelter for women, frequently quotes scripture, and attends church regularly. While she loves Tom and supports his political future, she does not want him to misrepresent himself to obtain votes.

17097511_10154316074755205_7673131336260306679_oWe will leave the ending for you to discover. The dialogue is vivid and often humorous; the ending is unpredictable. A thought: theatres looking for a play with meaningful themes might check out “Confederates,” playwright Bradbeer’s newest play, which debuted last year in Palo Alto at TheatreWorks.

“The God Game” is directed by Michael Lipp who melds a superb three person cast into a flawless ensemble. The cast is an all-star team and all three members have previously performed in comedies, serious dramas, and musicals.

Jordan Born is totally convincing as Matt, whose hyperactive life is dedicated to political power. Mr. Born has been very active in local theatre and just completed Peter and the Starcatcher, TJ’s previous show. A new role awaits in April, as he is headed to the altar.

The Dual Critics believe they have seen every performance by Cathy O’Brien on various stages in Jacksonville and in her hometown at St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre. We recall seeing her the first time at ABET in “Champagne Complex.” She is believable as Lisa, whose faith in God is deep.

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Actor Blake Michael Osner is Tom and is indeed picture perfect as a potential Vice Presidential candidate. This marks the first serious role in which we have seen him in some time; he usually chooses comedies and musicals. Call him Mr. Theatre; he sings, acts, directs, and produces shows throughout North Florida, and recently made his New York debut as a singer at The Metropolitan Room.

The set designed by Tim Watson is elegant and looks like a Virginia townhouse which supports the focused work of a dedicated public servant.

The Production Team included: Michael Lipp (Director), Tim Watson (Technical director, Scenic and Lighting Design), Brady Corum (Assistant Technical Director), Tracy Olin (Costume Design),  Jon Scherf (Graphic Design), Sarah Brace (Stage Manager), Mackenzie Geers (Assistant Stage Manager), Ron Shreve (Properties), Audi Gibson (Light Board Operator), Mark Rubens (Sound Board Operator), Sarah Boone (Executive Director), and Michelle Simkulet(General Manager).

“The God Game” is one of the best plays we have seen recently, and while the play hasn’t made it to New York yet, it should and it will. The drama is exceptionally well-written and in the hands of the skilled director and fine cast is very thought-provoking.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.
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