Conceived by Kevin Augustine; Written and Directed by Kevin Augustine and Edward Einhorn
Produced by Lone Wolf Tribe
Off Off Broadway, Puppetry
Runs through 10.16.16
La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street
by Ran Xia on 10.5.16
Kevin Augustine and puppeteers in The God Projekt. Photo by Connor Augustine.
BOTTOM LINE: Lone Wolf Tribe’s raucous cosmic exploration is a morbid fairytale set in a desolate paradise where God is a lonely old man searching for a secret he had forgotten.
Paradise, or so it is called, in Kevin Augustine’s haunting vision, is a crammed studio above a desolate burial ground, littered with what look like infants' skeletons and mousetraps. God, an old man struggling with dementia, sits atop the somewhat shady structure. His throne is an old armchair, surrounded by what can only be described as a mess. It is quite obvious from the beginning that God the Father, in this fairytale of terror, has a past to be recovered, and deeds to be resolved. Rather than an omnipotent being, God, portrayed by Augustine, is overwhelmed by the endless incoming messages from people of the world, and does not seem to have the capacity to respond to any of the prayers. His secretary patches in calls occasionally at the beginning of the show, as God communicates with a few cancer patients, as well as the parents of an ailing young girl. The aging immortal shows himself as an incompetent custodian who takes pleasure in reminding an imaginary audience of his glory days.
Embarking on that nostalgic trip, God recounts his accomplishments in creating the world, reading from a Bible to a pet puppet monkey with a text-to-voice recognition device. With dirt from a pot, God starts to construct humans, like he once did according to his own image, or so he thinks. Instead of an ethereal, magical process, the creation of mankind is presented to the audience as gory and terrifying. Augustine molds a human heart, along with other organs, and at times “slices open” his very own body to pull out a stretch of intestine. God soon creates a monstrous, bloody “Baby Adam” puppet who looks like a decaying corpse from the Bodies exhibit: the internal organs, as well as muscles, are mostly exposed.
However, just as the audience thinks this is going to be an absurdist play about the physical existence of mankind, or a philosophical debate on the ugliness of life, it is gradually revealed that the reason God can no longer create life, or heal the sick, is the absence of Queen of Heaven. As God slowly unearths his memory of a turbulent past, we discover that God was married to this Queen, and together they created life. Unfortunately, God became jealous and possessive of his companion, and his thirst for power blinded his conscience, which led him to kill her. In desperation, God tries to revive his Queen by putting together her remaining body parts: a giant arm and leg. However, an old tape shows him that he has done the futile work before, and is stuck in an unending cycle of grief, despair, and failure. The lonely Father’s creations, the bloody Adam puppets, thus become a reflection of all that is wrong in the patriarchal concept of the origin of life.
The God Projekt is a powerful commentary on how religions deliberately cast aside the mother figure, as well as the biological aspect of the creation of life. Through contemplation, God realizes the distinction: “The mother sheds blood by giving life; the father shed blood by taking it.” The play effectively questions the importance our society puts on masculinity as well as the father-son legacy, at the expense of sacrificing female bodies. It is, to say the least, agonizing to see the broken body parts of the giant Queen of Heaven, as well as witnessing the excruciating pain the “Baby Adams” endure, as a result of their motherless conception.
Kevin Augustine does a stunning job physicalizing the aging God with hyper-realistic prosthetics. The set design by Tom Lee thoroughly complements the style of the show, and transforms La Mama’s Ellen Stewart Theat into an eerie apocalyptic wonderland. While there are structural flaws in this production, The God Projekt is a bold theatrical statement that explores a question that is ancient and relevant. The creators’ efforts in searching beyond canon should be celebrated and emulated.
(The God Projekt plays at La MaMa’s Ellen Stewart Theatre, 66 East 4th Street, through October 16, 2016. The running time is two hours with an intermission. Performances are Thursday to Saturday at 7 and Sunday at 4. Tickets are $30, $25 seniors/students, and can be purchased by calling 646-430-5374 or online at www.lamama.org.)
The God Projekt is conceived by Kevin Augustine. Written and Directed by Kevin Augustine and Edward Einhorn. Set and Video Design is by Tom Lee. Lighting Design is by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew. Sound Design is by Mark Bruckner. Costume Design is by Ciera Wells-Jones. General/Production Manager is Gloria Sun. Stage Manager is Berit Johnson.
The cast is Kevin Augustine, Edward Einhorn, Joseph Garner and Emily Marsh.