A transcendent Case

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Jesse Hinson (left) as Ryan and De'Lon Grant as Keith in "A Case for the Existence of God" at SpeakEasy Stage Company. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.
Jesse Hinson (left) as Ryan and De'Lon Grant as Keith in "A Case for the Existence of God" at SpeakEasy Stage Company. Photo by Nile Scott Studios.

A Case for the Existence of God, SpeakEasy Stage Company, Roberts Studio Theatre, Calderwood Pavilion, through February 17. 617-933-8600 or speakeasystage.com

Sometimes a disarming play can be very compelling. A terrific case in point is Samuel D. Hunter's two-character drama "A Case for the Existence of God." Set in a cubicle inside a Twin Falls, Idaho small business in the present or recent past, Hunter's seemingly simple play deals with efforts to secure a loan with the help of a mortgage broker.

A stressed out father hopes an acreage purchase will persuade a judge to allow him shared custody of his young daughter. Under the careful SpeakEasy Stage Company guidance of multiple talent Melinda Lopez (actress/writer/director), this deserving 2022 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award winner proves as much of an affecting look at male friendship and human bonding as at a potential transaction.

Do not be fooled by Cristina Todesco's wisely spare scenic design—a simple office cubicle featuring desk file drawers and two chairs. Hunter's 90-minute no-intermission play—with scene changes smartly indicated by Elmer Martinez's lighting and Aubrey Dube's sound design—richly explores the evolving terrain of human connection with the kind of striking insight this gifted playwright displayed in his earlier "The Whale." Here a deep connection initially appears to be unlikely as loan-seeking Ryan wants no middleman—which a mortgage broker Keith effectively is—and questions whether people are as much of a priority as business to him.

As Keith works with Ryan, common denominators are revealed. Both men have not only attended the same high school—even some of the same courses—but also share the fathering passion—with Keith fostering a toddler of his own named Willa and looking to adopt. Willa and Ryan's Krista also go to the same Sunshine day care and easily play together. As the very different men grapple with their respective challenges, Ryan reflects that they share a specific kind of sadness.

Eventually that sharing includes respective truth telling and whiskey (with dialogue and action indicating time at unseen Keith's place and the playground, for example). Straight Ryan has no negative reactions about Keith being gay. In fact, Ryan displays genuine empathy when Keith experiences a very stressful moment and even offers to hold Keith for a while. He goes as far as ''offering to be physically close" with Keith.

Ultimately, the possibility of real bromance and deep mutual caring becomes as important to both men as the fate of their individual parentings. Will their friendship become as significant to Willa and Krista as Ryan and Keith's own narratives about their respective parents? Playwright Hunter provides a stunning and moving closing response.

From start to finish, De'Lon Grant as Keith and Jesse Hinson as Ryan make the men's respective journeys from acquaintance to real platonic male love equally moving. At the same time, Grant and Hinson capture the sometimes humorous exchanges as Ryan struggles to understand mortgaging terms. Grant catches Keith's ongoing concern for Willa and heartfelt openness to helping Ryan. His outburst as Keith suffers a personal defeat is very haunting. Hinson finds all of Ryan's self-deprecation and vulnerability as well as his remarkable feeling for Keith.

The provocative if mysterious title of Hunter's play may seem grandiose to some theatergoers. Still, the intriguing relationship of Keith and Ryan—rivetingly captured at SpeakEasy Stage—turns "A Case for the Existence of God" into a spiritually transcendent call for mutual understanding and love.