Photo by Don Kellogg

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures

Tony Kusher's much anticipated new work is fantastically engrossing, scintillatingly intellectual, and mentally exhausting - all at the same time.   From minute 1 to minute 210 (that's 3 and 1/2 hours, folks) you are on the edge of your seat absorbing every word, watching every movement, and processing, processing, processing.  Make no mistake, this is a heady play.  It's not for everyone, but certainly for those who are up for the mental gymnastics that it sponsors.  See it before it's too late.  Run.  Don't Walk.

What is this play about, you ask?   Well, there are so many layers here, it's hard to convey.  It's literally about a man's decision to kill himself before Alzheimer's gets him.  Adding a few more layers - it's a play about politics, relationships, marriage, economics, labor, sexuality, religion, suicide, and sex - just to list a few.  I'm not kidding.  There are others.   But let me try to boil it down to something simpler.  It's about family and struggle.  That's it. Family - all the good, all the bad and everything in-between.  It's also about struggle - in the family, among the family, outside the family and everything in and around the family.  There are really two kinds of families - the ones that look on the outside to be perfect, but are really a big mess on the inside - and the ones who look (and act) like a hot mess on the outside, but at the end of the day nothing, and i mean nothing, could tear them apart.  Gus Marcantonio and his family are the most definitely the latter.  A mess so hot they make August Osage County's Weston family look like dry ice.

The cast is superb - a better ensemble cast than any I have ever seen.  They seemed like an actual family rather than individual actors simply cast in the roles.  The performances were sublime.  At times there were 7 or 8 family members on stage and every single one of them was talking (arguing, more likely) at the same time and you could still follow the argument, the thoughts, and the scene.  And when a play lasts over 3 and 1/2 hours, you bet they were damn good if I'm using such superlatives.  Each and every actor brought his game to the stage.  (Michael Esper apparently brought his game and a rockin' hot bod, puppy dog eyes, and boyish smile to accompany it... but i digress).  Kudos in no particular order or preference to each performer in the cast:  Michael Christofer (Gus), Linda Eamond (Empty), Michael Esper (Eli), K. Todd Freeman (Paul), Hettienne Park (Sooze), Steven Pasquale (V), Molly Price (Shelle), Matt Servitto (Adam), Danielle Skraastad (Maeve), Stephen Spinella (Pill), and Brenda Wehle (Clio).

I don't pretend to know all the layers Mr. Kushner has written into the play.  Heck, I don't even know much about Karl Marx, but that's not what's needed to understand this play.  Listen carefully and absorb the feelings, emotions, the feelings and tones, the over arching them of family, struggle, and identity will reveal themselves to you as the minutes tick away into hours on Gus' (and your) watch.