Tuesday, July 27, 2021
‘A Case for the Existence of God’ Gives Sun Valley Audience First Look at Samuel Hunter Play
The stage is set in a shipping container.
Tuesday, July 6, 2021


You know you’re not settling in for any ordinary theatrical production in the Wood River Valley when New York Director Paul Lazar and Host Cathy Reinheimer address the audience, then turn around and open the doors on a shipping container.

The opening of those doors ushers the audience into Samuel D. Hunter’s newest play, “A Case for the Existence of God.” The play is entering its second week at the Reinheimer Ranch, taking the stage at 8 tonight through Saturday, July 10, with an additional 2 p.m. Saturday matinee.

Sun Valley audiences are the first to see the play, which is a work in progress as Hunter takes notes about which movements, which words, to refine. It will have it official debut at the Signature Theatre in New York City in 2022.

The play’s characters, played by Stevie Johnson and Pete Simpson have heated disagreements despite the bond they’ve formed.

This play was immediately presented with a challenge after it lost one actor one week into an already too short rehearsal, noted Lazar, who has appeared in “Married to the Mob” and “The Silence of the Lambs.” But Stevie Johnson ably stepped up and into the role of a mortgage broker prone to anxiety attacks.

“I’m a mortgage broker, not a lender. I don’t give anyone a loan,” he says, trying to explain his purpose in life.

He meets his match in a Twin Falls man played by Pete Simpson, a University of Wyoming alumnus and grandson of former Wyoming Gov. Milward Simpson. Simpson, who won a 2017 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Performance, has performed with and directed Blue Man Group productions.

He plays his latest role—that of an unassuming Twin Falls man—adroitly and believably. He’s come for a loan to purchase land that used to belong to his family to build a home for his two-year-old daughter.

“I don’t come from a stable home. This is a chance to hit the reset button,” he tells the mortgage broker.

But it’s clear he has no clue when it comes to the ins and outs of the lending business. And probably some in the audience will be able to relate as they listen to the mortgage broker rattle off lending plans and figures.  

“I guess having money is the only real permission I have to be alive. Without it, I don’t exist,” the man from Twin Falls says.

I realize finance is convoluted, the mortgage banker responds. You just play by the rules or you get nothing.

Before long, the conversation jumps beyond loans and finance to children—it turns out the mortgage broker is trying to adopt a foster child. And, as the two men take a deep dive into their childhoods, they realize they have even more in common, including a secret from the past that may upend the bond they have formed.

Playwright Hunter, who grew up in Moscow, Idaho, before moving to New York City, has set all his plays, including the Obie Award-winning play “A Bright New Boise” and the Drama Desk Award-winning “The Whale,” in Idaho.

This one is set in the Magic Valley and it’s fun for locals to hear references to things like the Californian who built a castle complete with turrets in the Snake River Canyon.

The staging of the play is intriguing, what with scene changes signaled by a buzzer, a computer hooked up and turned on and a TV broadcasting the local news during a time of tribulation. And, then, there is the final 10 minutes of the play, which takes advantage of the outdoor setting in a way an indoor play never could.

The play runs 90 minutes without an intermission. Attendees are welcome to bring blankets or low-back chairs, although folding chairs are available. Warfield Distillery & Brewery has  snacks, organic beer and cocktails available for purchase.

A light wrap might be advisable towards the end of the show, despite the abnormally warm temperatures.

Tickets are $35, on sale at https://theargyros.org and www.fielddazesunvalley.org






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