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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Theatre review: A Case For The Existence Of God is not to be missed

A Case for the Existence of God continues at Pacific Theatre until June 9.

A Case For The Existence Of God is a prime example of theatre at its best, a work of genius not to be missed.

Samuel D. Hunter’s masterful script is no dry metaphysical debate, as its title suggests at first glance. Instead, the play guides its audience through an outstanding exploration of male friendship that warms the heart one minute and wrenches it the next.

In the opening scene, we discover a tense, nervous, recently divorced Ryan, the father of a 15-month-old daughter. Intent on securing a loan to buy twelve acres of land on which to start a new life, he sits at an office desk opposite cool mortgage broker Keith, who is also the unattached father of a 15-month-old girl. Apart from that and their similar age, the men have nothing in common.

Keith, who is Black and gay, comes from a privileged background and is well-educated, well-dressed and well-travelled, whereas Ryan is a white, straight plant worker who comes from a dysfunctional home and is ill-educated, scruffy and poor. He has never set foot outside Idaho – not even in neighbouring Canada. “Where is that?” he asks several times, with increasing incredulity.

Hunter’s dialogue overflows with wry humour while his narrative swoops, twists, and turns in an array of crises, ending in the possibility that both fathers might lose their much-loved daughters. Despite their differences, the two men help each other navigate the personal and societal catastrophes they encounter and forge a deep connection as their unlikely friendship grows.

Two superb, well-matched actors, Kwesi Ameyaw and Robert Salvador, play Keith and Ryan with palpable ease and trust. Every word and gesture is believable, and they never once drop the ball in their fast-paced interaction.

Robert Salvador and Kwesi Ameyaw play Keith and Ryan with palpable ease and trust. Photo by Chelsey Stuyt.
Robert Salvador and Kwesi Ameyaw play Keith and Ryan with palpable ease and trust. Photo by Chelsey Stuyt.

The intricacies of Hunter’s exquisitely woven plot are highlighted with simplicity and sensitivity by director Kaitlin Williams.

By repositioning two swivel chairs, one stylish and one drab, to reflect the two characters’ personalities, Alaia Hamer’s minimalist but articulate set is transformed from Keith’s office to his kitchen to Ryan’s living room sofa and an imaginary park bench. Similar repositioning depicts the passage of time, as do speedy blackouts and effective lighting designed by Hina Nishioka.

In fact, Williams’s direction is enhanced by her entire creative team’s attention to each detail that carries the play forward. The action lunges between comedy and tragedy, and not one engrossing minute is wasted to tell this uniquely powerful story.

A Case for the Existence of God is a veritable feast, starting with humour, followed by an entree of drama and the sweetest dessert ever: hope. Pacific Theatre could not have chosen a more fitting end to its 40th anniversary season.

A Case for the Existence of God by Samuel D. Hunter. Directed by Kaitlin Williams. A Pacific Theatre production on stage at Pacific Theatre (1440 W 12th Ave, Vancouver) until June 9. Visit for tickets and information.

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