Is God Is – a Melbourne theatre review by Alex First

June 27, 2023 by Alex First
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Revenge is the cornerstone of Is God Is, an incendiary play that explodes onto the MTC stage.

A woman’s two daughters are prevailed upon to carry out their mother’s dying wish in Is God Is                              Photo by Pia Johnson

What a hard life twins Anaia (Henrietta Enyonam Amevor) and Racine (Masego Pitso) have had in America’s south.

It is a legacy of an ugly incident sparked by their father (Kevin Copeland) who tried to burn to death their mother (Cessalee Stovall) when they were three years old.

After that, both their parents disappeared from their lives and they were left to be brought up in foster homes.

Understandably, they still carry the emotional and physical scars of what happened on that fateful day.

They were led to believe their mother had died, but now – on her deathbed and having not seen either of them for 18 years – she reaches out to her daughters.

She asks them to pay her a visit in the home she is in.

When they arrive, they see a feisty but debilitated and disfigured woman with a tube up her nose.

Her dying wish is to seek retribution for what her husband (their father) did to her.

She makes Anaia and Racine promise to kill their father, but first, they have to find him, which they do through his former lawyer, Chuck Hall (Patrick Williams).

It turns out that he has since remarried and is living a comfortable life with Angie (Clare Chihambakwe) and their two spoilt children.

Riley (Grant Young) and Scotch (Darius Williams) – are also twins – about to turn 17.

With the assurance to their mother ringing in their ears, the fiery Racine and more circumspect and emotional Anaia go about their business.

Nothing and nobody will stand in their way, casualties though there inevitably will be.

It remains to be seen exactly what will happen when they finally get to confront their father and ask him to account for his actions.

Written by American Aleshea Harris, Is God Is is a modern Greek tragedy.

Pointed prose, striking performances and creative staging are its hallmarks.

Masego Pitso is a firecracker as Racine, while Henrietta Enyonam Amevor embodies Anaia’s caring nature. Their interplay is the glue that binds the story together.

Cessalee Stovall makes an immediate and lasting impression as the girls’ mother, confronting them for the first time since they were little. Mum is no shrinking violet.

These actors are ably supported by the other five cast members, who readily establish the distinct characteristics of their charges.

Dirty and dishevelled, lawyer Chuck Hall has clearly seen better days.

Angie is unappreciated and taken for granted by her husband and entitled sons, one of whom is particularly caught up in himself, while the other is more sensitive.

And – as can only be expected – the girls’ father is quite a piece of work.

There are hammer blows in Aleshea Harris’ words and the deeds prompted.

Set and costume designer Renee Mulder has crafted an ingenious wooden church-like centrepiece.

It “opens up” to reveal the different settings around which the action flows.

Most striking is the room where the girls’ mother is seeing out her final days. For all intents and purposes, it looks like a shrine.

Composer Joe Paradise Lui’s sound design and Jenny Hector’s lighting design add gravitas to the offering.

Zindzi Okenyo and Shari Sebbens’ assertive direction ensure Is God Is has maximum impact.

Ninety-five minutes without interval, this is tough, unrelenting theatre that prosecutes a compelling case against domestic violence and abuse.

It is playing at Southbank Theatre, The Sumner until 15th July, 2023.

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