If the title doesn’t put you on edge, perhaps the plot summary will. New at the Pershing Square Signature Center is the play by Samuel D. Hunter titled A Case for the Existence of God, which follows a man’s quest for a loan in a small town in Idaho. Put any doubts to rest, since David Cromer’s direction of this 90-minute two-hander makes it one of the year’s most emotional new plays.
There’s no comparison between Ryan (Will Brill) and Keith (Kyle Beltran). Keith, a gay Black man, comes from a wealthy family that has taken him all over the world. Ryan, who is straight, white, and the son of heroin addicts, feels no meaningful connection to his ancestry other than the piece of property his great-grandparents formerly owned and which he is now trying to purchase so that he can establish himself. But Ryan doesn’t have any cash and has poor credit, so he’s stuck in Keith’s little office at the mortgage company.
Ryan and Keith are both single fathers, but they share a common bond: their daughters are 15 months old. In the wake of Ryan’s recent divorce, his more ambitious ex-wife is vying for full custody. Although Idaho places a premium on reunification, Keith is hoping to adopt the girl he has fostered since she was born. They get close over the course of several months, bonding over their feelings of isolation and the worries and difficulties of fatherhood.
A Case for the Existence of God is an unusually Safe Portrait of Male Friendship;
these aren’t David Mamet or Neil LaBute-esque boors driven by sex and power, even if some of the dramatic contrivances are a little too convenient (it turns out the pair went to high school together, and the more popular Ryan was a bit of a bully to Keith).
It’s also unusual to see a male perspective on fatherhood that doesn’t portray men as neglectful slackers. Hunter has crafted two lonesome men who want want the best for their children, and in doing so, he has written a play that is not only mature and beautiful but also incredibly emotional.
Brill and Beltran, who were college buddies of his and Cromer’s, are a natural match for both of them because of their easy rapport and tight personal bond (you can tell). Their dedication to their fictitious girls is heartbreakingly real, and their performances are full of grace and emotion. Beltran excels as a nervous wreck whose explosion is imminent but whose timing is unknown (it’s probably for the best that Signature has shut off the front row).
For 75 minutes, the two men sit motionless in Keith’s office, which is richly detailed and realistically brought to life by scenic designer Arnulfo Maldonado, with just slight changes in Tyler Micoleau’s lighting indicating new scenes.
Cromer’s production, which features a set the size of a postage stamp but is performed on a stage that appears expansive in comparison, could have used the smaller of Signature’s two theatres. However, Cromer works his usual magic by creating a sense of closeness even in the most unlikely of settings. This production does justice to the quality of the play it is based on.
A Case for the Existence of God struck a chord with me on a fundamental level as a new father. The way Hunter seemed to dive into my mind and dump all my worries onto the stage was really cathartic, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about nonstop ever since. The title is terrifying, yet it may mean anything. Just by looking into my three-month-old daughter’s eyes, I can see the whole globe. The drama, however, is not without merit. Thanks for reading our article A Case For The Existence Of God Play Review.