Review: MAN OF GOD at Geffen Playhouse

MAN OF GOD is an extraordinary and important piece of storytelling. Running now through June 19, 2022

By: Jun. 01, 2022

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So, while we're on the subject of grooming, in America, let's talk about that for a moment as it is an unspoken, yet critical subject in, MAN OF GOD, currently at The Geffen Playhouse's Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater.

Church camp. Missionary camp. Saving souls for Jesus. All while the most vulnerable members of a young group are gently, systematically preyed upon by the very adult they should be safest with.

In, MAN OF GOD, playwright Anna Ouyang Moench quite deftly gets right to the point in the setup for this extremely comic drama about four Asian-American high school girls on a mission trip to Thailand with their Pastor. And it's definitely not what anyone expects.

The American Bar Association defines sexual "grooming" as a preparatory process in which a perpetrator gradually gains a person's or organization's trust with the intent to be sexually abusive. The victim is usually a child, teen, or vulnerable adult.* It's a concept that is currently being exploited in the broad political stage of far-right-wing American politics. But lands the sweet spot of the play's context when you consider a recent Washington Post story that broke the "Southern Baptist Sex Scandal in Texas*" or the hundreds of TicTok videos by former Mormon and Evangelical survivors who talk about the very issues that are brought up in this play. Moench actually wrote this piece long before the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the #MeToo movement exploded.

So, when one of the girls finds a video camera strategically placed under their hotel room toilet bowl, it is no surprise, to us anyway, that they immediately launch into a tumult of anger, doubt, confusion, and fighting amongst themselves. They struggle very loudly and violently about whether it could even be possible that their Pastor would violate them - filming them at varying degrees of undress and frankly, "doing their business" in the bathroom.

Bold and smart and resourceful as they are, they are still teens and...young women...who suddenly find themselves in one of the most vulnerable situations they could possibly be in. Holed up in a room, in the middle of a red-light district, in a foreign country where they don't speak the language, with no access to their Pastor who has given them all a different room number, no passports, no access to the internet and a phone that charges a lot of money in order to call home. They even doubt they can call the police. Because who would believe them. One of the girl's mothers certainly doesn't even after a desperate, last-ditch phone call. And, of course, where they actually are, is at the epicenter of the Thai sex trade which even the girls question. It's all not merely disturbing. It's terrifying.

"He's a little - you know."


"What do you mean?"

"He' know..."

"I love the way he hugs me. He makes me feel safe."

Regardless of where any of them stands in their predicament, they, in fact, don't feel safe. They are scared. One by one, we watch these girls play out hilarious personal revenge fantasies like their own version of Madonna's "What It Feels Like For A Girl" as they wrestle with the concept of being violated, to what degree, Patriarchal behavior, the idea that boys will be boys and ultimately justice. How will they get it? Because each one feels owed at least that.

But who will speak up? And by doing so or not doing so, does it make them the victims, the agitators, or complicit? It's an extremely interesting point of view watching these girls laugh and fight and reveal themselves to their core with each passing moment trapped in the room.

MAN OF GOD is a button pusher. So, be prepared. (I myself was practically hysterical by the end of the play.) The script is agile. And although extremely funny, even the inventive lighter moments pull no punches. There's no hiding anything about these girls or their situation and definitely not the man who has absolutely abused them.

The Geffen production billed as a feminist thriller had its original 2017 world premiere at East West Players. It has most likely evolved. The casting here is downright perfect. The female actors are incredible as an ensemble and the work is exceptional with direction by Maggie Burrows. And, it is all encapsulated by an incredible set, lighting, and sound design, as well as costume and fight choreography, which work perfectly on The Geffen's smaller stage.

MAN OF GOD is an extraordinary and important piece of storytelling.

Written by Anna Ouyang Moench

Directed by Maggie Burrows

Previews: Tuesday, May 10 - Thursday, May 19, 2022

Opening Night: Friday, May 20, 2022

Closing Night: Sunday, June 19, 2022


Shirley Chen as Samantha

Emma Galbraith as Jen

Erin Rae Li as Mimi

Albert Park as Pastor

Ji-young Yoo as Kyung-Hwa


Scenic Designer Se Oh

Costume Designer Denitsa Bliznakova

Lighting Designer Lap Chi Chu

Original Music & Sound Design by Jonathan Snipes

Fight Director thomas isao morinaka

Intimacy Director Mia Schachter

Production Stage Manager Elizabeth A. Brohm

Casting Director Phyllis Schuringa, CSA


Monday No performance

Tuesday - Friday 8:00 p.m.

Saturday 3:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Sunday 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.


Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at Geffen Playhouse

10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Proof of vaccination and masks are required - additional policy details can be found at


90 minutes, no intermission.


Tickets currently priced at $30 - $129.00. Available by phone at 310.208.2028 or online at Fees may apply.


This production contains adult language, adult themes, depicted violence, loud music, the smoking of an electronic herbal cigarette, and strobe lighting effects. Not recommended to those under the age of 14. Children under 6 years of age will not be admitted.

Photo by Jeff Lorch. L-R: Ji-young Yoo, Erin Rae Li, Emma Galbraith, and Shirley Chen in Man of God at Geffen Playhouse.


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From This Author - Tracey Paleo

Tracey Paleo is a voting member of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle.  She is also the publisher of the arts & culture site Gia On The Move.... (read more about this author)


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