Metro Weekly

‘Is God Is’ Serves Up Unconventional Revenge (Review)

Constellation's "Is God Is" blends metaphor with blood-soaked violence in an offbeat, sometimes clunky revenge tale.

Is God Is: Morgan Danielle Day and Devin Nikki Thomas - Photo: DJ Corey
Is God Is: Morgan Danielle Day and Devin Nikki Thomas – Photo: DJ Corey

God is a vengeful mother in Aleshea Harris’ Obie-winning odyssey Is God Is. Staged in boldly stylized fashion by KenYatta Rogers, Constellation’s alternately funny and tense new production matches the play’s freak with engagingly eccentric characterizations, grotesque imagery, and blood-soaked violence.

Much of the bloodletting comes at the behest of Mother, or She, portrayed by Jasmine Joy with hellfire intensity. She summons twin daughters Racine (Devin Nikki Thomas) and Anaia (Morgan Danielle Day) to her hospital deathbed, where she lies bandaged, horribly burned and maimed.

Although, She isn’t actually lying there, as Rogers has positioned the bed vertically, so that whenever the bed rolls onstage in a horror-movie squall of lights and smoke, She towers over her twins. The image is always arresting and a little bit funny, abetted by the frightening burned-flesh makeup, which doesn’t look great, but does look frightening.

Certainly, She can be scary herself — if not to the audience, then to her daughters, who were burned and scarred in the same fire that felled their mother. They haven’t seen her since.

In a riveting monologue, aided by shadow play projected against the foldable screens comprising Shartoya Jn.Baptiste’s set, She recounts the events of the fateful fire, before addressing Racine and Anaia with a dreadful final request. She wishes death upon the man responsible. He just happens to be the twins’ father. “Make him dead, with lots of blood,” She demands.

“We ain’t killers,” insists Anaia. To the twins, Mother is God, so God is mother, and dealing death to the man who betrayed God and her children is merely due punishment, God’s will. They take up the quest, and we’re welcome to imbibe their adventure as spiritual allegory, or a shocking tale of wounded Mother Earth turning the tables on mankind. Or, it can go down as the tragic story of a family destroyed by domestic violence.

The play approaches all angles with seriousness, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is, in fact, a sense of whimsy summed up in a line from Racine, who says, despite all she’s seen and been through, she’s “still got some sweetness” to her.

Is God Is: Jasmine Joy - Photo: DJ Corey
Is God Is: Jasmine Joy – Photo: DJ Corey

Portraying 21-year-old would-be assassins Racine and Anaia, Thomas and Day develop a sweet rapport, even as the sisters confront deadly enemies. Day’s Anaia is the shyer of the two, more self-conscious given that the fire left her face maimed and scarred, unlike Racine, whose scars are less visible.

Day, especially, fares well with Harris’ stylized script, which often calls for the twins to express their thoughts and emotions in first-person narration. As they encounter strange characters along their cross-country journey, not every cast member handles the odd text and tone as assuredly.

James J. Johnson’s broadly comic performance as Chuck Hall, an attorney with vital info, doesn’t quite land, and Michelle Proctor Rogers seems not fully committed to a tone for her Angie, a self-serving soul the sisters meet along the way.

Corbin Ford makes a strong impression as Scotch, the poet bro in a pair of twins, along with gay gardener brother Riley (Ethan Hart), who pop up to block the sisters’ path. And, portraying the man at the end of this bloody trail, ELI EL enters looking one hundred percent the part, scowling in a dark suit with cowboy hat and boots. Whatever this weirdness is, he gets it.

Moreover, Rogers’ direction gets it. The intent is clear, even when the execution isn’t flawless or fluid, as, say, during a scene change when those screens don’t fold up fast enough. Amidst shadow puppets and amusing hip-hop dance interludes, including one hilariously faked lap dance, Is God Is manages moments of affecting intensity depicting the cursed violence inflicted by toxic parents on their children and the world.

Is God Is (★★★☆☆) runs through July 14 at Source Theatre, 1835 14th St. NW, with a Pride Night performance on June 29 and Zillenial Night on July 5. Tickets are $20 to $45. Call 202-204-7741, or visit

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