Curtain Call: The God Game or a political prayer for agnostics

Square One Theatre Company, Stratford: With politics and midterm elections in the spotlight, it’s not surprising that artistic director Tom Holehan chose Suzanne Bradbeer’s The God Game for the November slot of his 29th season. You certainly couldn’t ask for a more timely production. Since every aspect of a politician’s life is analyzed and scrutinized these days, the choices they make can be crucial to their political futures. Take Tom, for instance.

Tom is a soft spoken gentleman and the senator from Virginia who apparently has not cheated on his wife Lisa, nor has he sent nude photos of himself across the Internet. He is not an alcoholic and he has never raped anyone or done drugs. He sounds like the perfect candidate for any political office. However, even he is surprised when Matt, his longtime friend and political insider stops by the senator’s home for a surprise visit. That’s when he offers Tom a life changing opportunity. But there are complications.

Lisa, Tom’s wife, is not happy about the visit because she holds Matt responsible for her brother’s death. Adding to her fury is the fact that Matt has come on Tom and Lisa’s anniversary and they were looking to celebrate — just the two of them. The thing is that Matt informs them that the presidential nominee wants Tom to run as his vice president. That should be good news. Great news. The problem is that Tom needs to act and speak more like a God-believing man, when in actuality he is an agnostic. His wife, a devout Bible quoting woman, won’t stand for her husband lying about religion.

This play asks about the role of religion in the political arena. It also focuses on relationships, intimate as well as public. In addition to these issues, the play focuses on how political life affects marriage, friendship, and the public. Clearly, Tom has important decisions to make.

Considering all this, the play is rather small. It’s like an 8 x 10 photo squeezed into a 2 x 3 frame. The conflict isn’t quite big enough to make it a truly dramatic image, and there’s little humor to make it witty and funny. There are also problems with the production. Lisa is so full of hatred for Matt, who walked out on her gay brother, that it is not believable that she too soon ends up hugging and kissing him as her long lost friend.

It would also help if the actors were more convincing when they sipped their drinks. They hardly put their lips to the bottle long enough to get a drop. The costumes seemed not quite right nor does Matt’s ponytail work. What does work are the actors overall performances. They are all quite talented in spite of the problems mentioned. Tom Holehan always manages to block and stage productions well and has a solid good cast with David Victor as Tom; Danielle Sultini as Lisa; and Kiel Stango as Matt.

Robert Mastroni’s set looks so good on the small Square One stage. It looks like what a quiet senator’s home office just might look like. The show plays through Nov. 18. Box office: 203-375-8778.

Joanne Greco Rochman, a founder of the Connecticut Critics Circle, is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: [email protected]