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Theatre Review: 'God Said This'

Amelia Takahashi as Hiro (left) and Becky Soohoo as Sophie.
Nathan Burton
Amelia Takahashi as Hiro (left) and Becky Soohoo as Sophie.

God Said This, an award winning drama by Leah Nanako Winkler, is now playing at the University of Oregon’s Hope Theatre. The story, somewhat inspired by the author’s upbringing in Kentucky, comes to life as a touching production directed by Michael Malek Najjar.

Although the plot may seem simple at first, the tale of a family facing harsh issues deepens and expands as details are revealed throughout the play. The family consists of Masako, the Japanese mother undergoing chemotherapy, James, the American father, now sober after decades nearly drinking himself to death, Hiro, the bold older daughter who bore her father’s cruelty until she left home, and Sophie, the compliant younger daughter, now married and devoted to her church.

Also on hand is John, a former classmate of Hiro’s, who takes her for car rides as an escape from sad visits to Masako’s hospital room. Although Hiro now lives successfully in New York, John shows her that adult life in Kentucky can be satisfying if you know how to appreciate it.

Stanley Coleman as James and Jennifer Appleby Chu as Masako.
Nathan Burton
Stanley Coleman as James and Jennifer Appleby Chu as Masako.

All of these characters are sympathetic and well acted. Stanley Coleman is outstanding as James, who recounts his troubled life at AA meetings. And what a treat to hear him sing.

Amelia Takahashi is especially strong as Hiro. With her emotional intensity and agile vocal patterns, she already seems ready for an acting career. Becky Soohoo’s Sophie is convincingly sweet as she cares for her mother. Ethan Kemper creates an endearing and complex John.

Jennifer Appleby Chu is loving and brave as Masako, the family’s center, but for some reason the author left her relatively undeveloped, and we know less about her than the others. Even so, bring a hanky for your tears.

Dorothy Velasco has reviewed productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for KLCC since 1985.