THE GOD OF HELL at Magic Theatre


A busy week of theater, this will be. First off, I finally got to see THE GOD OF HELL, Sam Shepard’s play at the Magic last night. Very Shepardy. (Shepardesque?) The play starts with a Midwestern farm family just living their lives, taking care of the heifers and watering the plants and avoiding the snow. Then a creepy guy in a suit selling patriotic gear and acting a little too comfortable with himself bursts on the scene. Things get scary from there.

At least, they did for me. Some critics have been saying that this play doesn’t work because it mixes reality and absurdism without committing to one or the other. I personally had no problem with it, perhaps because a lot of my own writing goes back and forth from real moments to more theatrical moments and I think it works just fine. I mean, it worked in Albee’s THE GOAT, where the first scene is a comedy, the second scene is a drama and the third scene is a farce. Here, the opening is realistic and things get progressively more allegorical and symbolic and absurd. Why is that a problem?

I also appreciated that it was a play with a political message, but it wasn’t overtly tied to current events. No “President Dush” or “Dick Haney” invading the country of “Hiraq.” Instead, it dealt with themes of torture, patriotism, fear, manipulation and presidential over-reaching in a more subtle and mysterious way. (Too mysterious for the woman behind me, apparently, who murmured under her breath as the lights were fading but before it was obvious the play was over: “No, no, no, no, don’t end, no, wait, what, no.”)

And the acting was slamming good. Damn, they get good actors at the Magic.