Anna Ouyang Moench’s Dramedy Depicts Girls’ Sexual Trauma
by Tyler Jeffreys
“We want you to admit it!” She stomps her feet.
“Admit what?” His snarl transforms into a smirk.
I left Shotgun Players yearning for a catharsis that playwright Anna Ouyang Moench refuses to deliver in “Man of God.” Her brilliant comedic tragedy mimics the painful silence that sexual prey tolerates to survive rape culture. Survivors of sexual abuse often don’t get catharsis, so neither do we.
Rampant sexual predators casually rape, abuse or harass their prey. A man honked at me while walking to the theater! When revenge eludes us, all we can do is sit in silence—even while yelling for help.
In “Man of God,” we watch four charming, funny girls navigate lonely anxious silence. They just arrived in Thailand for a mission trip with their Korean American Christian church to help spread the Good Word. But they need a savior after finding a hidden camera in their hotel toilet.
Each teenager freaks out in her own way, coping with drugs, denial, and corruption because confiding in an adult won’t work, especially the adult who accompanied them.
Playwright Moench cleverly gives the girls distinct personalities: the spunky rebel, popular pretty girl, bored intellectual, and naive innocent. We know these girls and the actors honestly embody each character. No word goes to waste.
“I don’t care if people watch me,” says Kyung-Hwa (energetic Sharon Shao)—anything to save face for her church. When she makes excuses for the pervert (versatile Chuck Lacson), she alienates the other girls.
Kyung Hwa’s chemistry with gullible Samantha (spot on Alexandra Lee) makes my stomach hurt from laughing. They squeal like fan-girls over how wonderful their pastor is, while the other two girls shake their heads in disappointment.
Doe-eyed Samantha makes a perfect target for Punk Rock Mimi (precise Lauren Andrei Garcia) to poke fun at. Garcia gives us a glimpse of the broken Mimi hiding behind a haughty demeanor.
Mimi’s rebel qualities blend well with her best friend Jen (unpredictable Joyce Domanico-Huh) who rolls her eyes at everyone in the room. Overachieving Jen ain’t got time for girly shenanigans, though we can see her longing to fit in with the others.
Director Michelle Talgarow conjures surreal revenge fantasies against the toilet pervert. When Samantha faces her opponent in a thrilling Kung Fu movie fight scene, a sword flies into our heroine’s hands. The striking images highlight the warrior buried inside each girl.
Playwright Moench cleverly packs the catharsis we need into these surreal scenes. But, we also see Mimi call for help from her mom—who just labels her “dramatic.”
During the final showdown, you can hear a pin drop. We hold our breaths, waiting to see if our four feisty girls will expose the pervert. A long, long packing-their-bags scene amplifies their anxiety as they struggle to confront the adult with all the power.
You must see “Man of God” to understand the tension and anxiety that sexual prey must endure. With Moench’s intricate, smart-mouthed dialogue, Talgarow’s eye-catching staging, and the four actors’ honesty, Shotgun’s “Man of God” comes close to a masterpiece.
“Man of God” by Anna Ouyang Moench, directed by Michelle Talgarow, at Shotgun Players, Berkeley. Info: ShotgunPlayers.org – to October 2, 2022.
Cast: Joyce Domanico-Huh, Lauren Andrei Garcia, Chuck Lacson, Alexandra Lee, and Sharon Shao.
Banner photo: Lauren Andrei Garcia, Joyce Domanico-Huh, Alexandra Lee, & Sharon Shao. Photos by Benjamin Krantz