‘The God of Hell’ Introduces Outstanding New Talent to the 5 & Dime Stage

A Dual Critics Review

The 5 & Dime, Jacksonville’s Downtown theatre company, has opened Sam Shepard’s “The God of Hell,” which remains onstage through March 10, 2019. Of note, the theatre is now celebrating a third year at its permanent location at 112 East Adams Street. Additional information is available on the company’s Facebook page. For reservations, call (904) 637-5100 or visit www.The5andDime.org.

The late Sam Shepard (1943 – 2017) was both an accomplished actor and acclaimed playwright. His “Buried Child” won a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote “The God of Hell” in 2004 in based on his view of the political environment of the times. In response to the attacks of 9/11, the Patriot Act was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. The legislation allowed officials to search a homes and businesses without the consent of the owner, and allowed the FBI to monitor telephone calls and e-mail without court orders. A second major source material was the 1999 publication of “The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War” by journalist Eileen Welsome. Shepard described his play as a take on fascism.

The play takes place in a home on a Wisconsin farm. The set depicts a kitchen and a small living room; the walls and floors are black; furniture and appliances are white. Both rooms contain pots of plants, rendered in cartoonish black and gray ink on a white background. A living room window provides a background view of a large barn.

God of Hell, 5 & Dime, Jacksonville, Florida
Keary McCutchen, Brooke West Carr and Jim Warren / Photos by Maya Adkins

Frank and his wife Emma make a living here raising cows. They are isolated from their neighbors, most of whom have given up farming. Mr. Haynes, a past friend of Frank, has recently come to visit and is using their basement as a place to stay for a while.

Shortly after the play opens, an aggressive stranger enters the home while Frank is away (they don’t lock doors in Wisconsin). Mr. Welch identifies himself as a salesman, and we gradually learn that he is pursuing Mr. Haynes, who was a participant in in a project involving plutonium, and now has side effects related to exposure to radioactivity.

Haynes frightens and unnerves Emma and takes over Frank’s life as he accuses them of unpatriotic behavior, and sets about capturing his prey. And this as far as we will take you into this surrealist plot.

This play introduces some outstanding new talent to the 5 & Dime stage. The production is the directing debut of Raines Carr, an Adjunct Professor at Florida State College. He has an MFA in directing from the University of Alabama and spent twelve years working in casting and various projects for Disney.

God of Hell, 5 & Dime, Jacksonville, Florida
Jim Warren and Brooke West Carr / Photos by Maya Adkins

The somewhat timid Emma is portrayed by Brooke West Carr, a JU graduate who teaches English and Literature at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St Augustine. She has a number of acting credits in major roles which include Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Miranda in The Tempest.

God of Hell, 5 & Dime, Jacksonville, Florida
Jim Warren and Keary McCutchen / Photos by Maya Adkins

Frank, the tall rugged farmer, is portrayed by Keary McCutchen in his local acting debut. His impressive credits include roles in productions by Oxygen and Investigation Discovery, two national channels. He is also the founder and creative director of Creative Veins Performing Arts.

Kerry Burke McCloud is making his debut on the 5 & Dime stage as the rightous threatening Mr. Welch. He graduated from Yale University and Fletcher High School, teaches English, and has appeared in productions at Theatre Jacksonville, Players By the Sea, and ABET.  

God of Hell, 5 & Dime, Jacksonville, Florida
Brooke West Carr, Jim Warren and Kerry Burke-McCloud / Photos by Maya Adkins

Rounding out the cast is retired engineer Jim Warren as the frightened Haynes. He began acting in local theatre six years ago and has appeared in most of our North Florida community theaters, including a standout performance as Pa Joad in Limelight’s highly acclaimed and award-winning The Grapes of Wrath.

Additional production team members included Arianna Rodriguez (Stage Manager), Kati Cress (Assistant Stage Manager), Tom Fallon (Set Design), Lee Hamby (Production Manager), Charly Adams (Light Design), and Jon Scherf (Program Design).

Since politics seems to be one of the most talked about subjects these days, we highly recommend this well-directed and well-cast Sam Shepard play.

Upcoming productions include Master Harold and the Boys (March 22 – 24) and Small Mouth Sounds (April 19 – May 5).

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.