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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

God Said This is a twist on the dysfunctional family genre

Vancouver's Pacific Theatre presents the Canadian premiere of Leah Nanako Winkler's drama from June 2-24.

Vancouver’s Pacific Theatre presents the Canadian premiere of God Said This, the story of two sisters who return to their Kentucky home as their mother begins chemotherapy for a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

In this twist on the dysfunctional family genre, the father, James, is a recovering alcoholic seeking redemption, and the two daughters are struggling to overcome their differences; Sophie is an ardent born-again Christian, while Hiro lives a single’s life in New York City. John, an old high school classmate of Hiro’s, now a single dad, worries about leaving a legacy for his son.

Chosen by Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Ayad Akhtar as the 2018 winner of the Yale Drama Series competition, Akhtar described God Said This as conveying “a deeply felt sense of the universal—of the perfection of our parents’ flawed love for each other and for us; for the ways in which the approach of death can order the meaning of a human life.”

Born in Japan and growing up in Kentucky, playwright Leah Nanako Winkler wrote the play while her own mother was undergoing cancer treatment. And while God Said This chronicles the complexities of a familial reconciliation in the throes of crisis, Winkler also wrote the play explicitly for a company of mixed-race actors, something she states in her script notes: “James, Masako, Hiro, and Sophie are meant to be a mixed-race family [and] remember that Kentuckian doesn’t always mean white.”

For actor Stephanie Wong, who portrays Sophie, this will be the first time she will perform a role written as mixed race, an opportunity she calls “pretty special.”

“This family dynamic resonates with my own personal experience, coming from a mixed-race family dealing with the universal struggles of cancer and alcoholism,” she says.

Yoshie Bancroft, who plays eldest sister Hiro, agrees. “There is so much heart, care, pain, but most importantly for me: the representation of a mixed Japanese/white experience, family story, and the cultural nuances that come with that. Also, the humour.”

God Said This plays at Pacific Theatre (1440 W 12th Ave, Vancouver) from June 2-24. Visit for tickets and information.

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