Taproot Theatre presents “The God Game”

As the current presidential election moves into its final weeks, Taproot offers us a play about how religion has become an increasingly important factor in American politics. Must our candidates profess a faith (mainstream, of course) and act as if they shared the belief in God that is held so dear by the majority of our citizens?

In “The God Game” written by Suzanne Bradbeer and directed here by Carol Roscoe, we meet upstanding Tom, a really good man, a fine husband and father, and the well-respected Junior Senator from Virginia. The presidential election is coming up, and the anticipated Republican nominee has sent his emissary, Matt, to Tom’s house to see if Tom will serve as the Vice Presidential candidate on the ticket.

Tom, strongly played by David Drummond, appears to be the ideal candidate. He is indeed respected; his reputation is impeccable; his legislative history stands up well; he’s handsome and has a pretty wife involved in charitable works. But Tom has a flaw! One he never talks about. No one but his wife knows that he doesn’t believe in God.

Though he initially rejects the idea of running, the more he thinks about it, the more it appeals to his ego and his sense of duty. Why not? He doesn’t have to talk about his lack of faith. He can finesse questions, maybe make show appearances at church as so many politicians do. “Of course you can.” encourages Matt (Cobey Mandarino) who just happens to be Tom’s good and long standing friend. But such behavior is abhorrent to his wife, the true believer. Thus plays out the conflict at the center of this play.

The acting is excellent. Drummond’s Tom makes a very believable metamorphosis from “No way” to enthusiastic acceptance of the idea. Nikki Visel captures all the devotion of a truly loving wife, just as she rails against any deceptive religious behavior. The two play off each other with finesse and powerful emotion.

Meanwhile their old friend Matt is totally likable, totally tied to them both emotionally, yet in a way he is the devil who leads Tom away from integrity. We the audience are witness to powerful acting by all three characters.

What didn’t work as well for me were coincidences within the script that stretched credulity—Lisa’s all too perfect charitable work, Matt’s deep history with the couple juxtaposed to his role as the presidential candidate’s aide de camp, the couple’s ability to sustain a “perfect” marriage despite the religious issue. It’s just a little too pat.

But the issues raised are so thought provoking and the production (acting, set, lighting) so compelling, you can put aside the forced coincidences and just enjoy the performances and consider the issues the play raises.

Through Oct. 29 at Taproot Theatre, 204 N. 85th St., Seattle, (206 781-9705 or taproottheatre.org).

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