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Fatherhood, friendship star in ‘A Case for the Existence of God’

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Fatherhood, friendship star in ‘A Case for the Existence of God’
Actors Jesse Hinson and De’Lon Grant in rehearsal for “A Case for the Existence of God." PHOTO: NILE SCOTT STUDIOS

Friendship and fatherhood are at the center of “A Case for the Existence of God,” now playing at Speakeasy Stage. In a dreary cubicle in Idaho, Keith, a Black, gay mortgage broker, and Ryan, a white, divorced yogurt plant worker, bond over their young daughters and the need for emotional connection and support.

Actor De’Lon Grant, who plays Keith, was moved by the piece from the start. The first time he read the script, he says, “My heart was in my hands and my eyes were full of tears, because it’s a really beautiful piece.” He adds, “It’s not often that you see two men being so vulnerable and open and finding connection in other men in a very platonic, beautiful way.” Grant plays opposite Jesse Hinson as Ryan.

Hinson and Grant in conversation with director Melinda Lopez. PHOTO: NILE SCOTT STUDIOS

The 90-minute, two-actor show was written by Samuel D. Hunter, author of the hit play and Oscar-winning film “The Whale.” Here, he’s written an intimate portrayal of the inner lives of the two characters and the bond that they form. The performance explores how people from very different backgrounds can connect over a shared humanity and universal values such as the care of family.

“Caring for children is always relevant. Creating opportunities for gifted Black actors is always relevant. Centering the story of humanity is always relevant,” says director Melinda Lopez. “Especially at the moment where there are questions about how we, as a society, and as a government are going to talk about LGBTQ issues.”

Grant comes to this performance fresh from a five-year stint on Broadway in the Tony Award- winning musical “Come From Away.” He has a strong connection to Boston, having earned his MFA at The Boston Conservatory in the 2010s and performed regularly at local theaters, including Speakeasy Stage, during that time.

“A Case for the Existence of God” is full of portrayals rarely seen on stage or screen. Emotional vulnerability from men, and men making close, non-romantic emotional connections are rarely showcased. Fatherhood, especially Black fatherhood, is not often probed in a deep way. These are important elements of healthy masculinity. Depicting them on stage normalizes these emotional needs.

The show runs at Speakeasy Stage through Feb. 17.

Like the play’s very different protagonists, Keith and Ryan, Lopez hopes audience members from different backgrounds will be drawn together by the performance.

“The best part of being at a play is watching the living breathing person in front of you changing,” says Lopez. “I think with this piece especially, people may come as strangers and when the play is over, you’re going to turn to the person next to you and say, I have to talk about what I just saw.”