By Lali Gill
It’s not something you need to find - rather something you’re already a part of, you just need to work out how you fit. James Sherman’s God of Isaac dips its toes into an ocean of Jewish jokes, sayings, and charactertures, leaving us happily swimming around in the shallows, until suddenly we’re in the deep, without noticing we got there. As we follow one man’s journey to decipher how he belongs in the world as a Jew, God of Isaac makes us laugh and hold our breath and wonder how this all will end for Isaac Adams. Exploring themes of identity, solidarity, and oneness, this story is one that rang painfully true for me.
Set in 1977 Chicago, the news of the National Socialist Party of America’s plan to march in Skokie, a town heavily populated by Jews, provokes Isaac Adams to begin tugging at his Jewish roots. Married to a Goyish fashion model, Shelly (Claudia Ware) his life is far from Kosher. But as the neo-Nazi threat grows closer, his questions get bigger, and tensions rise at home as Shelly begins wondering when exactly Isaac started caring about all of this.
Lloyd Allison-Young as Isaac is brilliant—the show opens on him, centre stage, until his mother (the hilarious Annie Byron) interrupts from an unexpected place. Their dynamic relationship throughout the performance is consistently funny yet still earnest, and also painfully relatable. The cast is filled to the brim with skilled performers, but Allison-Lloyd really does carry the show start to finish - his authenticity and generosity never wavering, even while delivering direct addresses or breaking fourth walls. The text felt natural and safe in his hands, and his ability to connect with both the audience and the other cast members was hugely impressive.
Other excellent performances came from Claudia Ware, whose energy and charisma lifted the show, and Tim McGarry, who, with every character he played, felt as though he lived up on that stage - so dynamic and earnest. Alexis Fisherman as Chaya was strong yet calm, and helped to bring an element of maturity to the story.
Moira Blumenthal’s direction is bold and effective - she lets her cast move around with ease yet still creates a coherent world, and a clarity around time changing and locations shifting. The pacing she set for the show worked perfectly, with the audience getting carried swiftly along on this ninety minute journey. Set and costume design by Hugh O’Connor was perfect for this intimate, yet larger than life story. The simple costumes suited each character perfectly, whilst the set offered the actors a lot to play with without becoming a kitchen sink stage. The music and lighting (Tegan Nicholls and Martin Kinnane) was affecting and tasteful, and all together the creative team of God of Isaac brought us a beautifully told story.
Though a show that addresses the audience can at times be a little jarring, this charming script was carried by a seasoned and clever cast, and the story never veered too far from its message. Having grappled with the question for as long as I can remember - what does being Jewish mean to me, and how do I fit? I was glad to have been there for God of Isaac, and whether you’re Jewish or not, I think at times we all wonder, how do I fit into my own history?
Image Credit: Blumenthal Photography
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.