By Tulis McCall
I keep hearing a phrase in my head: “For Your Consideration”. This is the jargon come Awards Season. In this case, it is not jargon. Consider this play. Please do. With Is God Is, Alesha Harris has created a myth, or perhaps reassembled many, of gigantic proportion.
Racine (Dame-Jasmine Hughes) and her twin sister Anaia (Alfie Fuller) are the survivors of a fire set 18 years ago, and they carry the scars – external and internal – to prove it. They speak to us in the third person – as chorus and character. The narrative is all about journeying. A message from their mother calls them to her side. SHE (Jessica Frances Dukes) is also a survivor of the fire, but her existence was unknown heretofore. Like a dying Goddess she commands that the two sisters fulfill a task she sets for them. It is revenge, and the daughters are charged to carry it out on the man who put them all in this situation: their father, MAN (Teagle F. Bougere).
Thus begins their path.
The story that rolls out is not filled with hearts and flowers. It is not happily ever after. It is ruthless and oddly comic at the same time. In a way Ms. Harris has taken a page out of the writing of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. What she has added is the purely feminine. There is no man on whom the sisters rely or with whom they confer. These two sisters depend only on themselves. Even the task giver is feminine – and not for nothin’ but the sisters refer to their mother as God. After all, she created them (and created a lot more). As long as the sisters are together, and they are almost one person in two bodies, nothing stops them. Not that they always agree on strategy or actions. Like I said this is not happily every after.
The saga is wild and complicated. Ultimately what is revealed is that when push comes to shove anyone can become violent, or manipulative, or at the least a sneak and a liar. This is writing that goes deep, not wide. The images and icons appear and disappear and come back in different shapes, in new suits of clothing. Each character is a notch in the belt of the story. There is nothing and no one who is extraneous, including the set and the costumes. Ditto for the direction by Taibi Magar which is spare and spot-on.
Is God Is is not a story to believe, it is a story to examine. Alesha Harris has given us a tale that we swallow whole before we have time to reconsider. While it is a story specifically about black people, it is an allegory about the human condition. Anger and revenge are never far off. We may not act on our impulses, but we sure as hell spend time thinking about them. Not that much difference between the two.
Is God Is by Alesha Harris, Directed by
WITH Teagle F. Bougere, Anthony Cason, Nehassaiu deGannes, Jessica Frances Dukes, Caleb Eberhardt, Alfie Fuller, Michael Genet, and Dame-Jasmine Hughes
Adam Rigg (Scenic & Video Design); Montana Levi Blanco (Costume Design); Cookie Jordan (Hair and Wig Design); Matthew Richards (Lighting Design); Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste (Sound Design)
Performances of Is God Is will take place through March 25 at Soho Rep., located at 46 Walker Street in Manhattan. Admission tickets are $35 general/$65 premium from February 6 – March 11, and $45 general; $85 premium for March 13 – 25, and can be purchased by visiting sohorep.org or calling 212.352.3101. $30 general rush and $20 student rush (valid school ID) tickets are available at the box office 30 minutes prior to curtain for each performance, no advance sales. $0.99 Sunday tickets will be offered on March 4 & 11 at 7:30pm and are available first come, first served at the box office only.