CRITIC'S PICK: 'God of Obsidian'

'God of Obsidian' is perhaps the perfect dramatization of the concept of 'mansplaining.'

 It’s the idea of a man explaining to someone, almost surely a woman, in a way that is pedantic and condescending. In the case of this two-person play, heavy on dialogue and strong on metaphor, mansplaining is weaponized to instill insecurity and destroy any sense of self-worth. 

Dealing in themes of mental health and gender, the show is directed by Jordana Williams and described as a “dark fairytale about a gaslighting relationship.” Gaslighting is, of course, derived from the 1944 Ingrid Bergman movie Gaslight and deals with someone purposefully trying to make someone else doubt their own sanity. 

Here playwright Mac Rogers, who also plays co-lead Nathan, inspired by the 2016 election of Donald J. Trump, tells the story of Alice and Nathan. Played by Rebecca Comtois, Alice struggles with a rickety  bridge necessary to get to and from Nathan’s house. This simple premise is the start of a highly complex psychological tale of an abusive relationship and the woman who seeks to escape it. 

Taking place over several seasons, there are simple signifiers that time passes, such as some background noise of birds chirping or the wind. Nathan and Alice are alone on the stage with few props — especially a rope for the bridge — and their raw emotions. At the start their love is newly fresh, and Alice is an ebullient spirit. Nathan is perhaps a bit too logical and didactic. But he’s likable enough, and it’s clear that he makes Alice happy. Nevertheless, the seeds are sewn for discord as Nathan raises his voice to stop Alice from interrupting him. And a sense of repetition is laid out as Nathan tells the first of several stories that begin with, “I heard a story of a man ...”

There’s a natural chemistry between Rogers and Comtois that grounds the narrative in a believable context. This is important as at times the metaphor of their relationship and life — the woods represent Alice’s aversion to risk, the single ottoman they sit on presents a low-key twist — threatens to create a cognitive dissonance between the action and the meaning. 

Realistic dialogue about Alice’s cut ties with friends, for instance, borders on being at odds with the heightened sense of reality and dream logic of the plot. But it holds together and coheres, even if Alice’s attempt to use Nathan’s storytelling modus operandi against him is a missed opportunity that would have made for a perfect emotional climax. 

God of Obsidian is both hard-hitting and incredibly frustrating at times. You might get the impulse to punch Nathan in the face or drag Alice across the bridge. But that feeling is how you know the play is doing its job.


The CINCINNATI FRINGE FESTIVAL continues through June 11. Find CityBeat reviews of 41 early performances here. For a full schedule and more info about Fringe, visit cincyfringe.com.

Scroll to read more Theater articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.