Pacific Theatre
God Said This by Leah Nanako Winkler

When & Where June 2 – 24, 2023, evenings Wed - Sat at 8pm & Sat at 2pm | Pacific Theatre, 1440 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver

Director Kaitlin Williams Set Design Alaia Hamer Costume Design Melicia Zaini Lighting Design Jonathan Kim Sound Design Chengyan Boon Properties Coordinator Monica Emme Stage Manager Taylor MacKinnon

Reviewer John Jane

Former Starbucks barista and child model Leah Nanko Winkler obviously likes to write about what she is most familiar with. Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a Caucasian American father, then raised in Lexington, Kentucky, the Shiota-Rose family at the centre of her family drama is much like her own, and is even set in Kentucky.

Family matriarch Masako is in hospital undergoing chemotherapy for an aggressive cancer. While one may not describe her family as dysfunctional – they are at the very least maladjusted. Masako’s husband, James Rose is an alcoholic. He collects rocks and sees himself as a crooner who frequents karaoke bars. His soliquay in the play’s opening scene provides an insight to a deeply flawed man who never really tried to understand the women in his life.

Eldest daughter, Hiro (Yoshie Bancroft) doesn’t fare much better. Home from her current abode in New York City to be with her ailing mother, she has a deep-seated antagonism towards her father, due to his drunken bouts of anger during her childhood. Sophie (Stephanie Wong) is a recent convert to Christianity and has learned to forgive her father, but has turned her ire towards her older sister.

James and his adult daughters have suspended their differences to take turns in providing some comfort to Masako during the latter stages of cancer treatment. Masako, for her part sees a positive side effect of the illness, in that it has brought her family together – at least temporally.

Despite delivering most of her performance lying in a bed, Maki Yi turns in a lively portrayal of the emasculated matriarch battling a terrible disease. Anthony F. Ingram gives a nuanced performance of the inadequate husband and father. Ingram is particularly effective when punctuating the play sharing his struggles with alcoholism at AA meetings.

Yoshie Bancroft and Stephanie Wong acquit themselves well as the siblings dealing with their own demons as well as their mother’s illness. Less is demanded of Sebastien Archibald as Hiro’s friend John than the other cast members, who, aside from a little over-the top exasperation at his son’s lack of application, does well with what he is given. With the amount of time dedicated to Hiro and John riding in a car, one could suppose that Props would provide at least a steering wheel to indicate an automobile in motion.

Director Kaitlin Williams has a strong cast to carry out Ms. Winkler’s script to full scope. In any other hands, this paroxysmal play might have seen its characters reduced to caricatures. However, she allows the actors to be open and exploit each other’s strengths.

Alaia Hamer’s simple set consists mainly of a hospital bed that includes all the purpose-specific features and basic chairs that serve as seating in AA meetings and a hospital waiting room. The production relies on Chengyan Boon’s sound effects for car doors closing as well incorporating Canadian songwriter Dan Hill’s “Sometimes when we touch” into the storyline.

God Said This might seem a strange choice to end what has been a successful full season at Pacific Theatre. However, when it doesn’t labour under its own weight, it does offer a few profound observations.

© 2023 John Jane