Review: "God of Obsidian" Gleams Darkly
|Cover art by Kate Kosma
God of Obsidian
Written by Mac Rogers
Directed by Jordana Williams
Presented by Gideon Media on all podcast platforms
Episode 1: August 27, 2021
Episode 2: September 3, 2021
Episode 3: September 10, 2021
If an intimate partner proposes any type of Bluebeard-style rule or, worse yet, expresses a lack of empathy for the service workers who deliver goods to his/her/their home, consider that a red flag. This applies doubly if the home in question stands at the end of a rickety bridge in the woods, as does Nathan's (Mac Rogers) sylvan abode in Mac Rogers's God of Obsidian. Rogers and Rebecca Comtois, as Nathan's significant other, Alice, reprise their roles from God of Obsidian's 2017 stage debut as it transitions seamlessly into a free three-part audio play for this new production. Alice's first impression of Nathan's home elicits a comparison to the Brothers Grimm, and although subtle fairy tale elements indeed run throughout the play (Nathan himself likes to tell little illustrative stories), they serve God of Obsidian's potently clear-eyed presentation of an emotionally and psychologically abusive relationship (an approach that resonates with that of Carmen Maria Machado's 2019 memoir In the Dream House). In other words, take the content warning seriously.
Before the end of the first episode, Alice, amidst a lot of flirty teasing, is moving in with Nathan. Additionally, Nathan is doing well for himself, and he offers her what he characterizes as a life of total freedom but which, looked at from another angle, one might see as a life of total dependency. (The fact that financial dependence makes it harder for women to leave abusive partners is not only particular to this situation but also widespread under and exacerbated by patriarchal capitalism.) Earlier, we hear a hint of something troubling in Nathan's sudden, sharp admonition to Alice to stop interrupting him, a canny moment of both writing and acting, but here, in presenting his case for a life of self-directed liberty to Alice, we hear the first extended instance of Nathan being aggressively logical, one of his favored strategies for exerting control. There are others, of course, including exploiting confidences about strains in her relationship with her best friend, along with other classical abuse tactics; and the final outcome remains in queasy doubt until well into the aftermath of the play's superbly constructed and performed climax.
The program for God of Obsidian's 2017 stage run explains that the title alludes to Aztec deity Tezcatlipoca, who, in one creation story, fashions the land from the female body of the captured Cipactli; and one can certainly draw parallels between patriarchs and gods, gaslighting and mythologizing, and the creations by these two males of their respective worlds on the backs (in one case literally) of a female being. Further, the play employs effective but unobtrusive symbolism—the isolating bridge, wasted summer days, a red power blazer—and the performances ensure that this dark fairy tale never feels less than real. Rogers allows Nathan to glide just along the edge of hectoring without being openly condescending (mostly), while Comtois imbues Alice's struggles through the emotional and psychological labyrinth in which she finds herself with an honest poignancy. So when we recommend God of Obsidian, really, we're just thinking of what's best for you.
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards