“Is God Is” Premieres at Oakland Theater Project
The long awaited Bay Area premiere of “Is God Is” by Aleshea Harris took place at the Oakland Theater Project on March 31st. The storyline is similar to a Greek tragedy by Euripides. Ordinary people are asked to do extraordinary things in the name of a God. Elements of the classic spaghetti western are utilized to drive the plot further down into the ever dwindling divide of good against evil. The body count is high as is the laughter that accompanies it.
Oakland Theater Project is located in the garage at the back of Flax Art and Design’s store. The stage is bare, the curtains slightly tattered. Two twins introduce themselves using the tool of self narration. Racine (Jamella Cross) is beautiful and revels in her meanness. Anaia (Rolanda D. Bell) is sweet and not beautiful. She won’t make eye contact with people to hide the burn scars that crawl across her face. Racine sports scars up her arm and on her back. These marks are the souvenirs from their father (Anthony Rollins-Mullens), whom they refer to only as “Man”. He set fire to the twins and their mother known as “She” (Tanika Baptiste) and left them for dead years ago.
After years of fighting their way through the abuse of the foster system the twins find that their mother is alive. They are summoned to the South, a place that exists in this realm as every Southern state recited together. Racine begins to refer to their mother as God, reasoning that she made them. God rolls out onto stage in her death bed and makes a dying wish of her children “Make your dad dead … Make him real dead … all the way dead.”
To honor this request, the heroes set out to honor God’s wishes with a brilliant and often hilarious deadpan acceptance of their quest. They traverse the U.S. seeking the vengeance demanded of them by God. The increasing acts of violence are questioned by Anaia. Racine counters that “We came from a man who wants to kill our mama and a mama who want us to kill that man.”
After questioning (and murdering) their father’s lawyer (Devin Cunningham) the twins are devastated to learn that their father has moved on. He owns a beautiful home with a new set of sons who also happen to be twins.
The socio-economic divide becomes achingly apparent as we meet the boys hilariously played by Anthony Rollins-Mullens and Devin Cunningham. They are carefree. They write poetry and eat arugula salad. Their long-suffering soccer mom (Tanika Baptiste) receives neither sympathy or help from the pair. It is a far cry from the scarred, seemingly orphaned girls who did not have a fraction of the advantages gifted to the boys.
Racine and Anaia do not react to this realization with grace, as a result, a bloodbath ensues. It ends with an actual standoff in the desert at sunrise between an unrepentant father and a scarred daughter.
“Is God Is” leaves us both devastated and amused. It is a confusing place to be in, yet it does not stop the audience from wanting more. The cast plays each character with enough skill that the audience buys full heartedly into whatever mental deficiency they are selling. Brilliantly directed by William Thomas Hodgson, this production is absolutely worth seeing. Oakland Theater Project also generously offers a set amount of “pay what you can” tickets. I suggest you reserve early.
“Is God Is” will run through April 23rd.
To find out more visit: https://oaklandtheaterproject.org/isgodis