To Believe Things Still Make Sense: “A Case for the Existence of God”

Hinson and Grant. Nile Scott Studios photo.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
Written by Samuel D Hunter
Directed by Melinda Lopez
Intimacy choreography by Ted Hewlett
Featuring De’Lon Grant as Keith and Jesse Hinson as Ryan

Jan 26 – Feb 17, 2024
Calderwood Pavilion
Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA 02116

Approx. 90 minutes with no intermission

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — A Case for the Existence of God is the story of two lonely men in small-town Idaho finding friendship in a mortgage brokerage. Keith (De’Lon Grant) and Ryan (Jesse Hinson) meet at their daughters’ daycare. Keith is a Black, culturally astute broker. Ryan is a white, blue-collar factory worker with a heart of gold and coffers of dust who needs a mortgage. 

They bond over the struggles of single fatherhood. Keith is fostering Willa and hopes to adopt her. Ryan wants to buy a plot of land on what used to be his great-grandad’s original plot so he can leave it to baby daughter Crista. What begins as a grueling process of jumping through bank hoops becomes a true friendship between men who have more in common than they don’t. 

American men are suffering a loneliness epidemic. This CNN article reported on a 2021 American Perspectives Survey by Daniel A Cox called “The State of American Friendship: Change, Challenges, and Loss.” To sum up, the article says more men than women reported leaning on their parents for personal support. More women than men said they relied on their friends. Women rely on their friends, generally speaking, because they have more of them. 

(Nonbinary and trans people were not identified as part of the survey. They should be included in surveys of the population. I will not be addressing their exclusion in this critique.) 

There are direct ties to kinkeeping, emotional labor, and mental health. The better one is at performing the emotional labor involved in kinkeeping, the more mental balance and resilience one has. Traditionally, emotional labor is women’s work

Isolate a man who never learned how to perform emotional labor, and you get one heck of a mentally and emotionally frustrated guy. Add single fatherhood and a society that ignores the men who show up to their child’s upbringing to the mix, and it’s no wonder men are so lonely.  

From a feminist perspective, males’ loneliness epidemic is why shows like A Case for the Existence of God are so important. Playwright Samuel D Hunter shows us that male friendships can heal and repair.

Men can perform emotional labor for each other. It takes practice; it gets easier with practice. Emotional intimacy can be entirely platonic. It doesn’t have to be a means to a sexual end.  

Speaking of, the professional relationship between Grant and Hinson appears real. It’s easy to fall into their characters’ long monologues about single fatherhood and loneliness. Intense stage drama captures an audience like nothing else. Drama is exhausting but easy. 

Photo by Nile Scott Studios

It’s Grant and Hinson’s gentle, kind attention to the opposite character’s small reveals that keep their audience’s attention. We come to care deeply about Keith and Ryan. We want their small successes as fathers – their daughters holding hands on the playground, hearing first words – to multiply. So when playwright Hunter drops a cataclysmic bomb on them, we’re devastated. The audience wouldn’t care without Grant and Hinson’s steady portrayals of their sincere but insecure characters. 

The staging of A Case for the Existence of God is mostly seated. In office chairs. In most shows, the energy and pacing of the production drops once the actors are seated. The closer to the floor a cast gets, the more the show droops. Or, in layman’s terms, it can get boring fast because the show lacks actor investment.

Not so for this production. This show is 90 minutes of Grant and Hinson shooting their energy straight up and out to the audience to maintain their pacing. They are engaged with each other, their text, and us. It’s an exercise in inverse energy production and worth artistic study.  

The scenic design by Cristina Todesco puts the two dads in a humdrum office cube. The cunning work by director Melinda Lopez transports them from the office to places all over Twin Falls, Idaho. She and they manipulate the performance (and the audience) via stillness and body shifts to communicate changes across time and location (with subtle assists from sound and lighting designers Aubrey Dube and Elmer Martinez). They’re time and space-traveling at the speed of thought. It’s so cool.

A Case for the Existence of God is for men. Anyone can watch it and appreciate it, but the people who need to see it the most are men. The solution to loneliness is connection. Keith and Ryan learn from their friendship about themselves and each other. Making friends as an adult is difficult, but it can be done. 

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