“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Although the title would suggest otherwise, God Said This, now running at Dukesbay Theater in Tacoma, is not a religious play. It is a play about how an alcoholic family reacts when the mother is dying from cancer. Despite the fact that the father is in recovery, it was not of his choosing; his liver and the onset of sclerosis chose it for him.
Although the mother happens to be Japanese, they are Every Dysfunctional Family and as the playwright Leah Nanako Winkler says the play gives “AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) performers the opportunity to play deeply flawed, complex people …who are not defined by their race.” In other words they are “unlike many of the Asian American stories that make it to the stage that tell the painful struggles of immigration and the Japanese incarceration during World War II.”
God Said This, kicked off to an incredibly funny start, with the father, James, played by the formidable Jim Winkler, introducing himself at an AA meeting. It is so well delivered, so well written with irreverent humor that the entire audience was laughing; but like all great humor, its essence was the tragedy of his wife’s cancer and how that stress made him want to go back to drinking.
His estranged daughter Hiro, played expertly by a last minute fill it, Leilani Berinobis, has come back from New York to Kentucky to see her mother. Although she hates her father for his alcoholism, violence, and anger, Hiro has two of those problems herself: anger and drinking. The other daughter, Sophie a born-again Christian, who has stayed in Kentucky, is the enabler in the family, trying to control everybody and fix everything. (while obnoxiously talking about Jesus too much)
The middle portion of the play comprises a number of scenes in which the author telegraphed the interpersonal social pathology of alcoholics, spouses of alcoholics and children of alcoholics. They all have major boundary and communication problems so it appeared authentic, but neither of the daughters seem to have problems at work or in their marriages; whereas children of alcoholics’ problems carry over into every aspect of their lives. Also neither of the daughters mention that they have ever stepped foot in Al-Anon or its sister program Adult Children of Alcoholics. These were glaring omissions.
In spite of the sisters talking about forgiving him, the father never initiates making amends for his previous drunken rages. The onus is all on them. One of the major tenants of 12 steps programs is making amends to the people the alcoholic has harmed. These omissions diminished the authenticity of the message.
Structurally the play faltered after the first scene, because the playwright did not establish a strong plot to create any real drama, in spite of the strong dialogue. It unfortunately descended into something resembling a soap opera
It all ended well with another strong monologue by James at the grave of his wife. However, it was a well directed solid production, but the play itself was disappointing.
God Said This. Dukesbay Theater, Merlino Arts Center #10. 508-6th Ave, Tacoma, WA 98402 Fri, Sat 7:30 pm. Sun 2 pm. Until April 3
Tickets: DukesbayGodSaidThis.eventbrite.com. Info:
Vaccination certificates and masks are required