Five chairs rest unoccupied in a semicircle at the front of a charming, crowded and restless room, upstairs from a cafe. The music stops, and the lights dim. A nonilluminated figure walks in and takes a seat, at the center, towered over by full bleachers of ceasing murmurs. A bright light shines on a young man’s face. And the show begins.
“God Fights the Plague” is a tale of tales. A story of stories that explain God. Eighteen-year-old Dezi Gallegos sets sail on a spiritual quest, to find if there is a God, many Gods or no God at all — if there is someone at the helm of our metaphysical and eternal vessel or if we are alone in inexplicable chaos.
This one-man-show, directed by Charlie Varon, is composed by the anxiety regarding knowledge. Gallegos plays himself and recreates nine interviews with different spiritual and intellectual leaders that explain their relationship with deities. From a rabbi who converts into a singing drag queen under the moonlight to a witch who adores Elvis to the California state director of American Atheists, Gallegos reincarnates these characters and interrupts them with his own thoughts.
Disrupting a linear narrative, the characters flow, meditate and grow with Gallegos, accompanied by the intermittent melody of his own life story. The ghosts he portrays are kindled by certainty, as they all truly understand what God is — whether it’s love, probability, Elvis or a lie to “satisfy our wish for guidance”.
This tragic comedy of life, death, life after death and plagues spirals around the idea of God, while centering the discourse on four questions: Is there a God? Is He good? Can He control the universe? Why would He create the “Plague”?
The concept of plague — both in a figurative and literal sense — as divine punishment for a crime never committed is prevalent and consistent throughout the conversational monologue. Justice and injustice are separated by a nonexistent wall, as the ordaining intelligence that has ultimate authority over the universe does not consider whether you deserve the plague or not. It is just given — purely statistical. And we lose everyone to the plague unless they lose us first.
Gallegos struggles in his desire for logic in an everlasting battle against the jealousy of faith. Gallegos depicts the pain of his envy of the certainty held by the faithful and longs for the bravery of ascertainment. He asks God for the serenity of knowing what to believe in, the courage of commitment and the wisdom to forgive himself for the arrogance of absolute belief. But there is no silencing that echo of coherent syllogism that doubts absolute truth — which tells his conscience he might not be illuminated nor shielded by the only precise and infallible gospel.
Gallegos, in an afterparty to celebrate opening night, told The Daily Californian that the underlying idea behind the play is empathy — hearing each other’s stories and acknowledging the truth in them. It is crucial to develop the humility of critical thinking. Varon expressed to us that Gallegos represents the new generation of solo performers and confessed how much of a pleasure it is to see him develop and create.
The magnificent interpretation of the 18-year-old is only excelled by the vision. Gallegos does not constitute the play over political or ideological discrepancies and divergences — which would have been extremely easy dealing with such a delicate issue — but rises above them to subtly and faithfully represent what God is to all the people he interviewed: truth, love and certainty. This ridiculous and epic tale does not look for difference but for equality. God might not be able to conquer the plague, but it will fight it. Perhaps God is the fight itself.
“God Fights the Plague” runs until Aug. 10 in the Marsh in San Francisco.
Contact David Socol at [email protected].