Sunday, November 23, 2014

"The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures", by Tony Kushner, lays out ideological paradoxes in a long comic play

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism, with a Key to the Scriptures,” by Tony Kushner, directed by John Vreeke, is playing now at the Jewish Community Center in Washington , and, I believe, in the East Village in NYC (the Public Theater).  It is inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s non-fiction book “The Intelligent Woman’s Gide to Capitalism and Socialism” and Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with a Key to the Scriptures”. I remember a couple of odd tangential encounters with Christian Science in Sunday School a couple of times in the early 1970s and again 1980s, on trip back “home” as a working adult.  Theater J’s link is  here.  I saw it Saturday night at TJCC before a sold-out crowd.

The play is in three acts, and takes about 200 minutes including the brief intermissions, making it like a very long independent film.  The stage at JCC showed a back drywall, cracked into a geography like it was a map, upon which black and white newsreels from the 50s, about the threat of communism, during scene changes.  Behind the drywall there is a tilted bookshelf (as if from Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar”).  The brownstone façade hangs from the top of the stage.  All of the activity takes place in New York City, with one stage setup, most of it in fact in a Crown Heights apartment in Brooklyn, NY one weekend in June, 2007.  The longest act is the second, that ends with a cacophony of polyphonic conversation.  The last act is shorter and simpler, and confronts the idea that Gus really may want to do an assisted suicide. The ending is unsettling. 

The play uses one opera theme, which I believe is by Verdi  (is it Nabucco?),  Can someone identify the theme?  Please comment if so.    

The family patriarch Gus Marcantonio (Tom Wiggin) answers the invitation of his sister Clio Annunziata Marcantonio (Rena Cherry Brown) to come to the family brownstone Drohega for a reunion.  Gus indicate that he would like to end his own life because he fears he is getting Alzheimer’s.  As the play progresses, we learn that his sense of purpose as a labor union boss has declined.

The gay son is Pill, or Pier Luigi Marcantonio, a high school history teacher, played by Lou Liberatore, is married to Paul Cedric Davis (Michael Anthony Williams), an African-American theology professor at the University of Minnesota.  But Pill has been spending borrowed money for sessions with a 25-year-old hustler Eli Wolcott (Joshn Adams), who is very attractive (although I would lose the tattoos) and properly virile. That endangers the plans of Maeve (Lisa Hodsoll), the lesbian partner of Empty (Susan Rome), who had needed the money for artificial insemination and surrogacy. 

Gus says that the crowing idea of his life was that the workers own their own products.  But that contradicted equality, as unions gave in to “capitalist” corporate demands to sacrifice the well-being of younger workers for the old and retired, as they invented featherbedding and protectionist schemes, anathema to modern libertarians. 

Pill says he felt harassed by the demands that he “belong” to something (as in Martin Fowler’s book, reviewed on my Book Review blog Aug. 27, 2014).  

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