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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Theatre review: God Said This is filled with nuance

Leah Nanako Winkler's dramady continues at Vancouver's Pacific Theatre through June 24.

Leah Nanako Winkler’s award-winning play God Said This examines a Japanese American family navigating uncertainty while unpacking their fractured relationship dynamics and history.

In Winkler’s story, a dispersed and dysfunctional Kentuckian family faces mortality, identity, and each other as they orbit the bedside of their very sick matriarch.

Masako, portrayed by the gut-wrenchingly convincing and emotive Maki Yi, revels in her adult children and troubled husband coming together, even at the behest of her ailing health. Hiro, the eldest daughter who has built a polished life in New York, returns home laden with demons and resentment, and her more domestically inclined sister Sophie navigates her mother’s condition through the tenuous prism of faith.

The underlying thread between them is an attempt to rebuild trust, understanding and empathy for one other while reconciling the past with the present.

Winkler has written characters with such depth and dimension that the two-hour performance is consistently compelling and authentic, and she doesn’t shy away from the unendurable aspects of chemotherapy with sensitivity and care.

While the narrative closely follows the tensions and intricacies of one family’s turbulent past and present crisis, Winkler also seamlessly weaves in thoughtful exploration of topics like fertility, addiction, class, religion, single parenthood and digital connection.

Anthony F. Ingram and Maki Yi in the Pacific Theatre production of God Said This. Photo by Chelsey Stuyt Photography.
Anthony F. Ingram and Maki Yi in the Pacific Theatre production of God Said This. Photo by Chelsey Stuyt Photography.

The production’s staging, sound designer Chengyan Boon’s music, and Jonathan Kim’s lighting design feel sophisticated in their simplicity, helping to facilitate a truly immersive and intimate audience experience that allows us to focus on slick direction from director Kaitlin Williams, poignant writing and incredibly impressive acting from the whole cast.

God Said This is peppered with joy, heartbreak, pain and love and is a beautiful portrait of a family searching for love and meaning in the midst of tragedy.

God Said This. Written by Leah Nanako Winkler. Directed by Kaitlin Williams. A Pacific Theatre production. On stage at Pacific Theatre (1440 W 12th Ave, Vancouver) until June 24. Visit pacifictheatre.org for tickets and information.

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