Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures

The first show I saw while on my trip to NYC was honestly not one I would have gone to if my friend hadn't wanted to attend. I like happy. I like funny. I'm not a huge fan of depressing shows. I've seen some I liked, don't get me wrong. But in general, I'd rather see something with song, dance & sparkles instead of something that makes me want to go home and die when I'm finished seeing it because I'm so depressed.
Because of this, a Tony Kushner play was not exactly at the top of my list of shows to see. Especially since i knew it was nearly four hours long. And the title alone was impossible to remember (and has conveniently been shortened to #IHo on Twitter). But, my friend wanted to go see The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures, which was playing at The Public Theater.

Truth be known, I was a fan of several of the cast members, as well as a fan of Michael Greif, the director. So I went. With only a few jokes about how depressing it was going to be. I am the first person to admit when I'm wrong about something (at least when it comes to theatre), and I was WRONG about this play. It was pretty darn amazing. It was funny, relateable in many ways, and yet got the very serious point across well.

I won't ruin the whole plot of the show, but it was basically about a family living in Brooklyn. The mother passed away years ago. Gus Marcantonio, patriarch of the family and lifelong fighter for union rights, had tried unsuccessfully to commit suicide the year before. Since that time, his activist sister Clio has been staying with him. At the beginning of the show Gus has called all three of his children together to tell them that he wanted to try to end his life again, but that he wanted their approval (or permission?) to do it first.

Pill, his oldest son, has been living with his long time partner Paul out of state after Pill was caught cheating on Paul. Empty is Gus' only daughter and in the middle of her own problems. Empty's ex-husband, Adam is living Gus' basement, while Empty is trying to deal with her partner Maeve is pregnant with their child. Youngest child, V is the only child who has been actively around since their father's last suicide attempt. He and his wife Sooze and their children live down the street, so V has been present when his other siblings have not. Each of the family members are fighting their own demons, and then they are trying to deal with the looming question of how and if they should make peace with their father and his decisions.

Stephen Spinells & Michael Esper. Taken from webage of The Public Theater

One of the most spectacular things about this show was the set. Designed by Mark Wendland, with lighting by Kevin Adams, this was one of the coolest sets I've seen in a while. Most of the show takes place in the living area of Gus Marcantonio's home. It is mentioned several times that the home was passed down for several generations, and the set makes it hold the appearance of a well lived in, older home. There are bookshelves filled with stacks of books, old family photos, and the paint and color scheme of a home that has most certainly been lived in for a long time. Other scenes were just as aptly done, my favorite being a scene in which Pill, Paul, and Pill's lover, Eli are outside near a subway stop. It was simple, yet perfect for the scene. It allowed you to focus on the actors and not the surroundings.

The cast was as close to perfect as you could get. In fact, it's hard for me to pick one actor that outshines the rest. Instead, I'll just pick a few that touched a chord with me. I loved seeing Stephen Spinella in the role of Pill. He's dealing with so many things in his life, including the fact that he loves his partner Paul, but has been cheating on him for years. Normally my head would go straight to "what a jerk!" with someone who had been cheating on their significant other. But Spinella made Pill a character that you connected with, even if you don't understand why he does the things he does.

Michael Cristofer in the role of Gus Marrcantonio was a wonderful thing to behold. This man is so conflicted about how to make his family understand that he simply doesn't want to live anymore. His individual conversations with his children seem to be his way of not only making his peace with them, but making his peace with himself. Cristofer's Gus makes it well known that he adores his children and his decision to end his life has nothing to do with anything they have or haven't done.

And of course, I have to mention Michael Esper in the role of Eli, Pill's lover. Anyone who knows me (or reads my blog) knows that I love Esper. After all, I did see American Idiot six times. This role was so different, and yet very much the same. Eli is young. He's living a life many would not approve of (slightly on the outskirts of society like Will in American Idiot?). But he has a heart. And Michael Esper makes sure that you know it. There was a point during the show that I wanted to walk up on stage and give him a hug. Not because he was Michael Esper, but because I truly felt like Eli needed a hug.

In between all of the drama and craziness of the story (if I just told you all the details you'd swear it was an episode of Jerry Springer) you begin to realize that this family is just like your family. Your family has issues. They fight at Thanksgiving dinners and family holidays. They laugh together. They drive each other crazy. And you also become very glad of the comedic touches that are woven throughout the story. I believe Kushner did a great job of writing a play that has enough comedy that you don't leave feeling hopeless or sad.

This show is only running through June 12th. Although I realize I don't have a great deal of readers (and even less in the NYC area), I highly encourage anyone who can get there to go. It's worth it.

1 comment:

  1. GOD did Eli need a hug! and maybe some chicken soup and a fuzzy blanket w/ it. All parts were played to perfection, you can see the dedication the actors have to their craft in their effortless portrayal of the deep intense characters.