Review: SpeakEasy Stage Company presents compelling A CASE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

The production runs through February 18 at Boston's Roberts Studio Theatre

By: Feb. 05, 2024
Review: SpeakEasy Stage Company presents compelling A CASE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

Loneliness, longing, and sadness are unavoidable parts of human life. No matter how hard a person tries to steer around or outrun them, these feelings inevitably find their way in, and sometimes they take up home.

In “A Case for the Existence of God” – being given a deeply affecting New England premiere by SpeakEasy Stage Company at the Roberts Studio Theatre in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts through February 18 – playwright Samuel D. Hunter brings together two similar but also different men, both single, Idaho fathers joined by circumstance and fate, in tandem with their shared desire to build better lives for their infant daughters.

In this expertly crafted two-hander, working-class Ryan is a white man, separated from his wife, anxious to turn his life into something by buying a piece of land his family once owned, and settling on it in hopes of strengthening his chances of gaining shared custody of his child. His quest leads him to the office of Keith, a black, gay mortgage broker, who is eager to help Ryan but distracted by his own efforts to adopt his foster daughter.

The two men were onetime Twin Falls High School classmates, something Ryan – the big-man-on-campus in those days – at first fails to remember. They weren’t friends then, but in the present their commonalities draw them together and a bond is formed.

As he proved with his earlier full-length play “The Whale” – presented by SpeakEasy Stage in 2014 and adapted into a 2022 feature film directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Brendan Fraser – Hunter is adept at plumbing the depths of emotion in his compelling, often heartbreaking characters. Here, the Idaho-born writer calls upon his own experiences when he and his husband, at about the same time, bought an apartment and adopted a child. Hunter explained in a recent interview that “it was staggering to me how difficult both of the processes were ... and how difficult it is for many Americans to lead middle-class lives.”

Keith and Ryan are all but subsumed by bureaucracy, with the proverbial decks stacked against them. Melinda Lopez seamlessly directs the action – with conversational dialogue overlapping in the most natural fashion – which takes place mostly in Keith’s small office space, designed in a contemporary, efficient style by Cristina Todesco, with Elmer Martinez’s lighting enhancing the smooth scene changes. The proceedings are complemented by KJ Gilmer’s costumes – including a flannel shirt, rumpled jeans, and work boots for Ryan, and well-tailored suit pants and dress shirt for Keith.

Jesse Hinson is achingly authentic as the often befuddled Ryan, looking back wistfully to a time when his grandfather owned the property he longs to buy, and roiled by his uncertain future. As the more pulled-together Keith, whose emotions bubble close to the surface, De’Lon Grant gives a finely wrought performance of great emotional depth. His compassion and empathy for Ryan keep him focused as he desperately attenpts to tamp down his own fears about his quest to adopt his beloved foster child and form a family.

Wherever you are in your own life, “A Case for the Existence of God” will tug at your heart and make you hope, perhaps against all hope, for these compelling characters.

Photo caption: Jesse Hinson and De’Lon Grant in a scene from the SpeakEasy Stage Company production of “A Case for the Existence of God.” Photo by Nile Scott Studios.