DC Theatre Scene: WEST BY GOD

West By God

A love letter to rural life in West Virginia

Brandon McCoy admits that he has written a love letter to his home state of West Virginia. McCoy has created a work that is both personal and heartachingly relatable to anyone who has pulled up roots and moved away from home. And yet, his home of West Virginia, as he shows in West by God’s earnest vision of a rural family, exists as one of the forgotten places of our country, caught in a trap of poverty and unfair societal perceptions.

McCoy’s earnest writing shines … lifted up by the cast’s charm and chemistry. Robert’s (Kevin Hasser) rapturous description of the pleasures of West Virginia — the food, the down-to-earth people, the natural beauty, even the way the plane touches down at our home airport — evokes the pleasures of home for all of us migrants, wherever we originated. I brought along a friend from West Virginia for this performance, and these heartfelt connections moved her to think of her home and me to think of my home in Puerto Rico.

Sophia (Rena Cherry Brown) is a widow living comfortably enough on Social Security. Her son Calvin (Colin Smith) has just lost his job. As with most of the cast, Brown and Smith exemplify such a natural chemistry, you’d have trouble convincing me that they were not actually related, so natural do they seem with each other.

Sophia’s sister Agnes (Sheri S. Herren) and daughter Martha (Rachel Trauner) struggle to find peace together once Martha reveals her desire to leave Wet Virginia. Trauner, a George Washington University sophomore in her professional debut, turns in a nicely nuanced performance as a teenager entrapped by her place of birth.

Jeremy Skidmore came from North Carolina to direct this play, and Rena Cherry Brown, until recently a local treasure, came from her new home in Nashville to perform the play’s pivotal role.  Once you see West by God, you’ll understand why they uprooted themselves to take part in the debut of Brandon McCoy’s West by God.