God Said This is a play about sickness, death, petty remembrances, and love. The play addresses the lives of Japanese Americans. The author herself, Leah Nanako Winkler, is a Japanese American playwright from Kamakura, Japan and Lexington, Kentucky. Her play God Said This won the 2018 Yale Drama Series Prize. She is a recipient of a 2020 Steinberg Prize in Distinguished Playwrighting.
Lavinia Hart, my cousin, joined me for the performance. Although born in Tacoma, Lavinia has spent most of her life in Detroit, where she ran the Attic Theatre and then taught acting and directing at Wayne State University. Our mothers were identical twins, born in Oklahoma and grew up in Missouri before moving to Tacoma after World War II. Lavinia and I grew up almost like brother and sister. She and her husband moved to Tacoma just before COVID hit.
My wife Peggy and I had been to Dukesbay before. We had seen Waltz of the Toreadors there several years ago. The theatre is a long narrow room with high ceilings where sophisticated grids hang lights for the stage below. The room has black curtains surrounding it. Lavinia and I chose the folding chairs on the floor just a few feet off centerstage. Risers along the long wall and at each end of the stage area gave additional seats about a foot taller behind the seats below. There are forty folding chairs.
A “black box theater” is a simple indoor performance space with plain black walls, a level floor, and designed to provide flexibility in configurations of a stage and audience seating. We saw several plays at Theater Schmeater on Capitol Hill in Seattle with pretty much the same configuration as Dukesbay’s.
The play begins when James, played by Jim Winkler, walks onto the stage, picks up a chair from next to a hospital bed and sets it down facing the audience and begins talking . . . not to us directly but rather to us as members of an Alcoholics Anonymous-like meeting. He is straightforward and we see him as he is. There is no guile. He seems to speak from the heart and is open about his life. Lavinia recognized the mannerisms and behavior of a Kentucky good old boy. She had directed the award-winning play series Kentucky Cycle years ago.
Although I had never seen Winkler perform before, he has acted at some of our favorite theaters: Book-it, CenterStage, Theater Schmeater and TAG. Winkler lived in California, but is from Reno now, so we hope to see him make the trek up to the Puget Sound area from time to time.
Aya Clark plays James’ wife, Masako, a Japanese American undergoing chemo therapy for cancer. We see Masako in bed for most of the play with a rare, aggressive cancer. We see her both in pain and laughing. Her daughters are there to comfort her. Clark is co-founder and producer at Dukesbay. She has appeared on stage all over the Tacoma area: Tacoma Little Theatre, Lakewood Playhouse, and Tacoma Musical Playhouse.
Jasmine Jaqua in her first on-stage appearance plays Sophie, the younger daughter. Sophie has found Jesus, which doesn’t help her relationship with her older sister, Hiro, played by Leilani Berinobis. Leilani was onstage with script in hand. She is a stand-in for another actress who is ill. Both daughers could never understand the pairing of their father and mother and held a grduge against their father for his drinking and the belief that he didn’t love his wife nor the daughers.
Hiro asks a distant friend, John, played by Jacob Time, to drive her back home. Peg and I had seen Jacob as Dr. Watson at CeneterStage in The Hound of the Baskerville’s. He has also appeared at Lakewood Playhouse and other theaters in the Puget Sound area.
Randy Clark, partner and husband of Aya Clark, directed the play. The two have been active in the theatre scene and have won awards for their work. They are a great team. Dukesbay Productions’ mission is to promote independent theatre in Tacoma and to showcase the works of theatre artists of all ethnicities.
Lavina and I enjoyed the production, and discussed the play and what it meant for both of us as we drove away. Like the girls, we never saw open arms and love for the family. God Said This was a story about love and family in all its different guises. We recommend the production and the theatre. Ticket prices are very affordable and there is a family feeling about being at Dukesbay. Randy welcomed us when we reached the second floor of the Merlino Art Centerand both he and Aya stood by the exit as we left with a handshake.
God Said This runs through April 3, 2022
The Dukesbay Theater
508 Sixth Ave. #10
Tacoma, WA 98402
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2:00pm
Tickets are $15, general admission.
For tickets: DukesbayGodSaidThis.eventbrite.com
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 253-350-7680
For more information, go to: www.dukesbay.org.