The dramaturgy of A Case for the Existence of God’s staging doubles as existential philosophy.
This two-hander starts with a familiar set-up for a drama: a pair of guys having a sustained conversation in a confined space. Turns out, it’s not so sustained. Unless you clock the screensaver changes on the computer behind them, you might not realize that we periodically jump ahead in time, without transitions nor breaks in dialogue marking the end of one scene and the beginning of the next. It looks like a single interaction, but it actually bridges multiple conversations that occur on different days as if they’re one long exchange.
In addition to the practical effect of this decision — it keeps up the pace, diminishing the possibility of audience disengagement in such a talky show, especially considering the lack of dynamic physical movement throughout — the approach has a thematic bent as well.
Though we hear all about the misery of their lives outside the cubicle (and, sometimes, inside of it), the focus is firmly on the burgeoning affinity between the gents. Refusing to explicitly depict anything outside this twosome feels like a commitment to a positive outlook; despite their tragedies raging beyond this office — which obviously inform what transpires within — the play stays locked on their blossoming friendship, and how they influence each other to better deal with the chaos brewing on the other side of that door.
Most of this chaos revolves around the disintegration of the most central relationships in their lives: being fathers to their kids. In life, we often can’t dictate the outcome of what we care about most, always liable to turn out not how we please. However, this does not mean that our existence is bereft of anything worthwhile. Such as, for instance, in this case, their healing camaraderie.
The degree to which the play sticks to this camaraderie acts as a sort of statement, a declaration of dedication to the goodness in their lives, despite the obvious turpitude elsewhere. No matter how awful everything else becomes, at least they have each other. Consumed in the minutiae of the daily grind, it can be easy to overlook what we already have, lost in our obsession with everything that we don’t/can’t have, yet still yearn for.
Which is where art like A Case for the Existence of God comes into play.
I’ve already covered its meta, self-referential aspects. In the unceasing churn of life as it moves ever along, we can fail to take stock of the pros when the cons seem so overwhelming as to define us. And yet, art like A Case for the Existence of God forces us — and them — to cling to the optimism at the shared heart of their newfound brotherhood. It’s a case for the holy existence of perspective, which can be all the difference between “everything’s shit” and “well, maybe not everything.”
And, sometimes, this difference is what makes waking up tomorrow bearable. Art has a habit of rejiggering our perspective, dragging us outside of ourselves to appreciate what the daily shuffle can obscure. And since art can transcend our corporeal space-time continuum, it can privy us to the happy ending(s) beyond our mortal coils…which can be seen in “real life” only by, well, an omniscient deity detached from the limits of our perception.
The production does not allow our two homies to leave the room; heck, they basically don’t stand up from their chairs. Though this stasis partly conveys the suffocating bounds of their existence, it’s also a form of chaining them to what’s actually working in their lives. No one in the theater directly experiences the sources of their depression; we hear about them, but we remain glued to the miracle before us.
And isn’t a miracle one case for the existence of god?