Entertainment » Theatre

God Is A Verb

by Cassandra Csencsitz
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Nov 11, 2015
God Is A Verb

The only interesting stories about utopia are those that acknowledge its impossibility from the get-go. "God is a Verb," Hook & Eye Theater's tongue-in-cheek take on attempted idealism, meets this criterion while being far from a cautionary (or reactionary) dystopian tale. The ensemble's second devised full-length play is an IV of optimism about how much fun it is to be alive and trying to solve the messy world in which we live.

Set in 1969, the subject of this true story is Buckminster Fuller, a 20th Century American Jack of all geniuses, and the play exists inside his mind. Among those of his generation concerned about paradise being paved, Fuller -- a scientist and inventor -- felt he could do something about it.

The plot is fixed on the climax of his two-decade long "World Game" in which he "attempted to build a better world through data and analysis." His Magic School Bus-like process went something like this: identify the issue, invent a solution, feed the data into an "infallible" supercomputer, and see how long the computer says our race will endure. To win the game his team would have to come up with a sustainable plan and no end of days.

To pull off the heady task of telling Fuller's frenzied story from the viewpoint of his id, ego and super-ego, Hook & Eye company wizz-writer Gavin Broady and director Chad Lindsey met the Herculean feat of simulating consciousness and the speed of thought without befuddling the plot or leaving the audience as adrift as when you try to tell your bedfellow about a dream. All this, no less, while staging a proper play.

A troupe of thinking artists led by founding Artistic Directors Carrie Heitman and Lindsey, the uniformly excellent cast of nine took turns playing Fuller/the Professor -- a character change they indicated through a pair of oversized glasses -- and his disciples or sub-personalities. In spite of their complexity, the transformations were remarkably clear.

The script of "God is a Verb" has wisdom to spare but Hook & Eye was wise not to preach, handling their concerns with wry restraint and a wink. Take this from Broady's richly poetic and science-y script, often so quicksilver you could miss in the theatre what you'd find on the page:

PROFESSOR H: "Take a look: Down in the world there are happenings happening. Revolutions. Boat accidents. Somebody just won a prize that turned out to be disappointing. It's a busy place, is my point. Two strangers are dancing alone in different cities, unaware of each other. I bet they would've been one of those couples with really great furniture. Beverages are ordered. Someone's day is ruined because they bought the wrong shoes, or found out they have blood cancer. (beat) Our task will not be easy, but our boldness must be taller than ourselves. Our ambition wider at the waist. The shoes of our heroism at least three sizes larger. We must open our minds until they are as empty and simple as farm animals. Who are the world's only poets. (pause) Thirty days, and then we make history. I'm very proud of you all. Begin when ready."

The Professor appears to be the sort of person about whom you'd say, "I wouldn't want to live in his head," and yet once there the patterns are familiar and, at a safe remote, even comforting -- cathartically shedding light while sparing actual pain. Our wheels spin along with Fuller's as he alternately stuffs guilt and keeps self-loathing at bay then gets sucker-punched by a bout of doubt, succumbs to self-pity, gives himself the old pep talk, gets high on inspiration or illusions of grandeur then deflates and so on down the line. You leave the theatre with our human condition on the brain yet a few grams lighter. To quote the great Indigo Girls song "Closer to Fine," "It's only life after all."

When we caught him recently supplicating over his dinner, my husband and I asked our five-year-old what on Earth he was doing. He replied, "Goding." Perhaps this is what Fuller meant by the phrase, "God is a verb," "God" as an inert synonym for "to pray." In the do-it-yourself hands of Hook & Eye, however, the verb form of God seems to mean, "to act in goodness toward the world." I favor that definition.

"God is a Verb" runs through Nov. 21 at Hook & Eye Theater, 160 Schermerhorn St., Brooklyn, NY 11201. For information or tickets, visit www.hookandeyetheater.com.

Cassandra Csencsitz is a New York-based arts and beauty writer. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Kalamazoo College and Master of Arts from St. John's College's Great Books Program. Cassandra met her husband in Greece on the University of Detroit Mercy's Classical Theatre Program and they are now the bemused parents of two. Cassandra is the Communications Director for Trish McEvoy Beauty.


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