In God's Hat
Tom Pelphrey delivers a riveting performance in Richard Taylor's darkly comic new drama.
Taylor consistently subverts expectations, as the plot takes a few unanticipated turns, and loyalties come into question. Brothers Roy (Pelphrey) and Mitch (Rhett Rossi), who has has just gotten out of prison where he was incarcerated for pedophilia, have reunited for the first time in a decade. Roy brings him to a run-down motel room, in an out-of-the-way location. He seems to have ulterior motives, although what those are remains undisclosed for a large chunk of the play. It's also unclear at first whether or not Roy was one of Mitch's victims, and if there's anything besides blood and animosity that connects the two.
The stakes get even higher with the arrival of Arthur (Dennis Flanagan), a member of the Aryan Brotherhood who once nearly killed Mitch when they were both in the pen. Mitch is understandably afraid of him, and suspicious of how he has arrived at the exact same motel that Roy has brought him.
Taylor knows how to keep the audience on the edge of their seats, and director Kevin Kittle and his actors play the discomfort and anxiety of various scenes for all they're worth. An extended conversation between Roy and Arthur while Mitch is hidden away in the bathroom is full of danger and suspense. The playwright also has a rather macabre sense of humor, reminiscent of the works of Martin McDonagh or Tracy Letts.
Pelphrey constantly keeps the audience guessing about what Roy is going to do next. Rossi succeeds in the difficult task of making a convicted child molester seem sympathetic. Flanagan strikes just the right note between an unsettling charm and a sadistic brutality. As one of Arthur's skinhead brethren, Gary Francis Hope is also chillingly effective.
Throughout the play, characters invoke or question the existence of God. Given their actions, redemption seems remote, and yet Taylor doesn't rule out the possibility.