If that title doesn’t grab you in these grey days of existential crisis, global conflict, divisive politics, economic uncertainty, and a myriad other things–maybe my review will. SpeakEasy Stage’s production of A CASE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD starts humbly and quietly as one man approaches another seeking a bank loan. What starts as a business meeting grows into a moving relationship rooted in shared humanity and the binding universal truths that lie beneath our superficial differences. This superbly-acted and written two-hander by Samuel D. Hunter and directed by multi-talented Elliot Norton Prize winner Melinda Lopez, captured me in its first silent moments and held me fast, clutching at my heart, until the last of its 90 minutes.

photo: Nile Scott Studios

This New England premiere sets itself down in Twin Falls, Idaho, in an office cubicle where we find two men. Keith (De’Lon Grant) a mortgage broker sits patiently opposite Ryan (Jesse Hinson) who is pouring over some papers. Keith offers to walk Ryan through whatever he finds confusing — which is pretty much everything since what Ryan is looking for is not just a mortgage, but a new lease on life. He’s a white, working-class, single newly separated father and this mortgage to reclaim his family’s land might give him leverage in a child custody battle. What’s amazing about this script is how immediately it lets us see the connection between money and how we value ourselves as human beings. Ryan admits his stress:

“I guess I feel like having money is the only real permission I have to be alive? Like without it, I don’t have permission to exist.”

Keith who is Black, gay, and also a single father, is more sure-footed in the monetary landscape. But when he suddenly gets a call from his foster daughter’s daycare, the conversation is catapulted immediately but very naturally into the realm of the personal. Will Keith be able to retain custody of his foster daughter? The real currency here is how much these men are willing to put on the line as fathers and for each other as they come to realize they “share a particular kind of sadness.” These two dads will go the distance, leaping over social prejudices and cultural obstacles to get to the fertile ground they share as human beings, each of them struggling against systems over which they have no control.

photo: Nile Scott Studios

Grant and Hinson are, individually, completely relatable and credible. But their interaction as they ride the ebb and flow of a genuine, emotional friendship is most absorbing. The play takes us right into the uncomfortable moments between them and within them. Survival requires rising to the occasion with openness, courage, honesty, and humor, as they face the bitter truths of their own vulnerabilities and life in a flawed world. I had no idea where these two were headed, which, as a critic who sees a lot, is exciting. As the playwright notes, we usually expect that “men are either going to punch each other or have sex.” What a revelation then, that Hunter has explored a vital and moving friendship between men whose fatherhood has shaped them in ways usually given short shrift in contemporary culture.

Only occasionally was I lost in time– some of the transitions caught me off guard. But the play travels far beyond that cramped cubicle where the story begins and into a larger, more benign and restorative sphere. If “god” resides in the grace of insightful, uplifting, well-acted and produced theater, I can make A CASE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD onstage at SpeakEasy until February 17!