Case Made

When there’s nary an obvious mention of God in a play titled A Case for the Existence of God, what represents the play’s titular deity is open to interpretation.

My interpretation of one possibility also serves to reinterpret how the ending of Samuel D. Hunter’s play can be contextualized and understood.

The conventional interpretation of the ending (spoilers, duh): director David Cromer’s concluding expansion of the productions’s means of theatrical expression — AKA, allowing the two characters to break free of their previously durational confines — can be interpreted as a signal that we’ve transcended the story’s established space-time continuum. With this new perspective on their circumstances, we see the happy ending to their predominately miserable tales, which their inherently limited mortality robs them of experiencing.

BUT, counterargument:

Early in the play, one of the guys (Kyle Beltran) deals with — and also flames — his anxiety by talking through his worst-case-scenario nightmares for how his life turns out, a form of “therapy” that baffles his new friend (Will Brill; my favorite actor you’ve never heard of), who tries with all his strength to remain optimistic…when he’s capable of keeping his crushing self-hatred at bay.

Given this introduction to the former character’s habit of imagining his future out loud, might the ending be a new version of this performance therapy? He can’t alter the outcome of his drama, but wouldn’t it be proof of their friendship’s impact that he now role-plays his fantasy resolution, as opposed to dreaming of the worst?

You may feel this is a cynical read on the ending — that their happily-ever-after resides solely in the hypothetical — but wouldn’t it be a case for the existence of the positive mark that his newfound friendship leaves on his being?

It almost constitutes a case for the holy existence of their relationship, a case predicated on the power of storytelling to comfort what ails us. They enact an illusion — communally performed through shared, inter-influential storytelling — that makes their finite time on this spinning orb more palatable, manageable, meaningful and, frankly, easier.

And the entire production can act as a similar balm for audiences converted to its magic, a testament to theater’s capacity to elevate our existence by shedding light back on us, light blocked by the blinders of our daily grinds. Theater’s artifice provides us with a godlier view on existence; unbeholden to the space-time continuum of mortal cognition (evidenced also by the seamless leaps in time between scenes), art privies us to a vantage point beyond the micro bounds of our sperm to worm.

Have you noticed my religious phraseology here?

So what God does A Case for the Existence of God make a case for existing? Well, I know what buildings I consider to be my houses of worship.

And A Case for the Existence of God is playing in one of them right now.

At the Signature Theatre through May 29!

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