The God Of Hell

From 10/28/2005 to 11/20/2005


Set in a Wisconsin farmhouse, Frank and Emma’s bucolic lifestyle as dairy farmers is disrupted when they offer cover to Haynes, a long-time friend of Frank’s who is on the lam from a mysterious government project involving plutonium. When an unctuous government bureaucrat appears at their farmhouse, questioning their patriotism and knowing far more about them than they would like, their heartland lifestyle is turned into a chilling scene of runaway government.


The reviews are in.

“There are few things as near and dear to our hearts as Frank Theatre. The gutsy, raw aesthetic favored by Frank’s director, Wendy Knox, is at once entertaining and enlightening. (What we mean: If ever there was a lesson to be taught in a Frank show, it’s something the characters and audience must learn together. Knox doesn’t much care for characters with moral agendas imposed on them—and neither do we!)…” –The Rake Secret of the Day

“Director Wendy Knox giddily embraces Shepard’s stick-it-to-the-powers-that-be attitude, augmenting the script with, among other touches, audio of former attorney general John Ashcroft singing a jingoistic ditty, “Let the Eagle Soar.” Steven Rohde’s set design is a realistically rendered interior of a farm home, but Knox has opted to steer her four-person cast in the direction of hyper-reality.

‘Virginia Burke is twitchy and feisty as the stir-crazy Emma, while Gary Keast seems to have an almost otherworldly sense of obliviousness as her husband. It’s hard to imagine Welch being any more whacked-out than Shepard has written him, but Grant Richey comes close, in a captivatingly sleazy performance. Haynes is probably the closest thing to a sane character the script offers, and Ansa Akyea gives him admirable hues of intelligence, panic and, finally, terrifying submission.

‘There’s not a scintilla of subtlety in this script, and by giving themselves over to its excesses, Knox and her actors give the audience a wink and an opportunity to become complicit in the happenings on stage.

‘It’s a smart choice. Even liberals are going to come out of “The God of Hell” feeling hectored. But Frank at least makes the agitprop entertaining.” –Dominic Papatola, Pioneer Press,

“Director Wendy Knox’s production is caught between Shepard’s twin worlds of realism and farce. The play opens with Frank (Gary Keast) and Emma (Virginia Burke) greeting a cold morning in their farmhouse with coffee and bacon. Steven Rohde’s set, from the running water to the working stove to the laden fridge, convinces us of the Wisconsin countryside. Frank has invited an old friend with a sketchy background, Haynes (Ansa Akyea), to lodge for a few days. Into this rusticity barges Welch (Grant Richey), a government agent on Haynes’s trail. Over 75 minutes, Welch unravels happy farm life into a raw conclusion of torture and government appropriation. Knox tightens the screws and in the final 10 minutes we feel Shepard’s fierce passion. It is tense and convicting…” –Graydon Royce, StarTribune,

“Director Wendy Knox seems to purposely steer the material away from any conventional safety zone. Much of the language in the early going is almost transparently bland, but almost from the beginning this production hits a tone of anti-naturalism, with each performer seeming to work within his own bubble of strangeness rather than meshing as a unit. Richey in particular goes right over the top from the get-go, with waves of creepy, condescending malice, and Burke veers wide-eyed between moods, and at times lends the work a welcome comic touch.

“In the second half of this single-act show, things move from the domestic sphere to realms of torture and political domination (it’s not that big a shift, come to think of it). Here is where Knox’s approach starts to pay off, when Shepard’s surrealism is cranked up several notches. …

‘Knox and her cast essentially go him one further, giving us a world so deeply off-kilter that only cruelty and power can prevail. What’s left to debate is how much it resembles the one in which we find ourselves today.” –Quinton Skinner, City Pages,