Review: The God Of Hell (Unit 102 Actors Company)

Unit 102’s take on Shepard’s play The God of Hell impressed in Toronto

A cow was not what I was expecting.

Taped up around the doorway to Unit 102 were posters for The God Of Hell.

On the poster, the title appears in bold, no-nonsense lettering. Above it, an image of perhaps the most docile of animals: a cow.

As it turned out, the cow is indicative of the setting. “Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland,” a character reminds us, “it says so on our license plates.”

The action takes place in a quiet farm, in the depressingly quiet dead-of-winter.

Inside the first ten minutes, we learn that a young couple – Emma, played by Jenny Westoby, and her husband Frank, played by Luis Fernandes – are lodging a man named Greg Haynes in their basement.

Before we even meet Mr. Haynes, played by Jesse Ryder Hughes, though, there’s a knock on the door. In pushes Welch, played by David Lafontaine.

Welsh is a salesman, or an agent, or representative – it’s not exactly clear – from a shady, but very pro-American organization. So, my guess is, probably the US government.

From there, The God of Hell gallops along, leaving by the wayside many basic questions. In this respect, it’s much like another fairly recent production in Toronto of Sam Shepard’s work, Fool For Love.

How and why things got started between the characters is left ambiguous, as the dialogue – as always with Mr. Shepard, a sort of eccentric tapestry of unassuming wit and poetic imagery – races along.

And much like Fool For Love, although there wasn’t a lot of laughter or outward indications of the audience connecting with the work, the good twenty seconds of silence after the show ended indicated volumes about how magnificently bewildering the material is.

This production of The God Of Hell was put on by Unit 102 Actors Company, and directed by Brandon Thomas. Nikol Pavlidou is cited as the stage manager.

As a coincidence, I happened to be on the same streetcar as a few people in the audience. They talked excitedly from Dufferin all the way to University Avenue about the show.

I loved it, too. If it ever gets a remount, I’d strongly recommend seeing it. Unfortunately, this run closed on February 11, 2012.