While on a church mission in Bangkok, four Korean American teenage girls from Southern California find a hidden camera in their hotel bathroom. They realize that the camera, labeled “Property of Seoul New Christian Church“, must have been installed by their own pastor and chaperone. man of godwho now plays at the Ashby Stage, talks about what happens next.
man of godShotgun Players, Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., until October 2
This fascinating premise, inspired by a real incident, could lead a playwright in many wrong directions. But award-winning playwright and screenwriter Anna Ouyang Moench (Apple TV’s Breakup) effectively connects the story with nuanced humor and pathos. And she faithfully recreates the attitudes, thoughts and speech patterns of adolescent girls.
During the 90 minutes of entertainment without intermission, we get to know the four students. Each embodies a different type of personality. There is the rebellious, contrary Mimi (Lauren Andrei Garcia), innocent and naive Samantha (Alexandra Lee), intelligent, studious Jeans (Joyce Domanico-Huh), and the religious and devoted Kyung-Hwa (Sharon Shao), with a heartbreaking story. Each actress excels in her role and brings sparkle to the production. Sharon Shao, with the most multifaceted role, has the best opportunity to shine, and she does.
Amid the girls trying to figure out what to do with the pastor, we hear of some clever and funny comments about what troubles teens: school, sex, Instagram, self-esteem, parents, and God. The girls are in middle age where Samantha takes her beloved stuffed animal, but Mimi curses a blue streak and makes jokes about the sexual behavior of tourists in Thailand. “It’s the place where the weird German sex fiends come to have fun with little boys dressed as little girls,” she says. Under the intelligent direction of Michelle Talgarow, the teenagers talk to each other, shout and move on stage with realism and enthusiasm.
But what about the pastor? We’re rewarded with fantastical scenes of each character’s dream revenge against their attacker. Young Samantha fights the pastor (Chuck Lacson) with a samurai sword. The sword is huge compared to the miniature knife she had earlier suggested the girls use to kill their pastor. They take out his kidneys and sell them, Jen, the budding medical student, fantasizes.
But when the pastor finally appears at the end of the play, things are different. The girls’ bravado vanishes in the sad recognition of their weak position. This dramatic, dialogue-free scene appears to take about 10 minutes to complete as the girls and audience silently assess the truth of their helplessness. It’s a dark and realistic ending, but we know these girls learned a lesson. They will not be submitted in the future.
man of god runs 90 minutes without intermission at Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, through October 2. Proof of vaccination and masks are required to attend in-person performances. General admission ticket prices are $23 to $46. Tickets for ages 25 and under: $7 with discount code MADTIX. Community tickets for those in financial difficulty: $15 with discount code COMMUNITY. Shotgun also has live performances on September 15 and 22, as well as video-on-demand (with closed captioning) from October 5-16. There is a special haptic tour and performance for blind and visually impaired customers on September 18. Reservations are encouraged. More information can be found at the Shotgun Players website.