Keegan’s WEST BY GOD Celebrates the Mountain State
West By God, which makes its world premiere at the Keegan Theatre, is “a story about home” by Keegan company member Brandon McCoy. The play digs into McCoy’s feelings both about “home” as a concept and his actual home—McCoy was raised in West Virginia, and says in a program note that he proudly remains allegiant to it. He’s tired of seeing it publicly disparaged and mocked, and hopes to probe the divide between urban and rural communities. To that end, it’s going on tour to the Mountain State after its run in D.C.
The show’s clear affection for West Virginia is literally in the background of all the action: The set’s contours evoke the state’s shape. But the show is clear-eyed about what McCoy’s home state struggles with.
The play’s strengths are in its depiction of life in the holler, where Agnes (Sheri S. Herren) and Sophia (Rena Cherry Brown), matriarchs of fatherless families, are pulling everything together — including each other — across gulfs of pride and hurt. Herren and Brown are both delights to watch onstage, embodying prickly, loving women who are trying their best to keep the faith in an economically depressed town. [Additionally,] the easy chemistry between Sophia and Calvin (Colin Smith) is some of the play’s best work.