No one does thriller or horror like A Red Orchid Theatre, truly. As a fan of both genres, even the most disturbing films can’t get under my skin. But a show in these genres at Red Orchid? You better believe I’m squirming.
That was the case a few years back with the incredible “Grey House” and again Red Orchid has delivered a spine-tingling thriller with “Is God Is.” Aleshea Harris’ amalgamation of Greek tragedy meets Quentin Tarantino meets Ari Aster grips you almost as tightly as the matriarch She.
Even now just the memory of Marti Gobel’s dexterous direction paired with the ingenious designs of her team including the eerie compositions of Kemet Gobel makes my skin crawl. These talented directors and designers take Harris’ already poetic, powerful and permeable text and transform it into a soul-stopping kaiju.
The difference here is that the monster looks different to everyone.
Left with disfiguring burn scars in childhood, twins Racine and Anaia have always been on their own. When an unexpected letter from their estranged mother brings the three of them together again, they’re sent off on a mission from God (aka their mother, She) to rectify the inhumanity that was done to them. Through their own modern-day “Medea” the twins set off. What we witness from that point onward is the snowballing effect of a cycle of violence and trauma, where we are left pondering the wrongs in our own lives and debating who among this commanding cast is most deserving of our empathy.
And, perhaps even further, which Greek drama role we, too, would find ourselves in if given the choice to take revenge on those who have harmed us.
In the role of She, Karen Aldridge demands our utmost attention. Every ragged breath drawn like a dramatic pause in a spoken sacred text. With her presence, it’s no wonder her twins see her as God-like. Not to be outdone, Aja Singletary (Racine) and Ashli Rene Funches (Anaia) take that energy and double it. From their abstract choreographic journey for their mission to their almost-cryptophasic way of speaking with one another, these two are names to watch for. I can’t wait to see what they do next.
I could write a twenty-page diatribe highlighting all the ways in which this show hits every note of my thriller-loving heart. But then it wouldn’t be so thrilling for you, so I won’t. Needless to say, “Is God Is” will keep you on the edge or awkwardly repositioning yourself in your seat. Oh, and the front row is a splash zone—you’re welcome.
“Is God Is” at A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 North Wells, aredorchidtheatre.org, through June 4. $30-$40.