Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Return of Gay Jesus

We had sort of hoped this was all behind us.  And in a sense it is. 

The Rattlestick Playwright's Theatre is running a (brief) revival of Terence McNally's 1998 Corpus Christi, about a gay Texan and his twelve friends, the arc of whose lives bear a striking resemblance to a better-known story.  (And a tip o' the biretta to Fr. W.E.B. for pointing this out).

Per the Times review (click up top), there are some significant differences between this version and the original.  Most are differences not in the play but in the times.  Ten years ago, there were protests, bomb threats, and one theatre chickened out altogether.  The emotional ante was probably raised for everybody by the murder of Matthew Shepard, which took place just before opening night.  But this time:
There was no talk in the aisles of free speech or the First Amendment. I didn’t even walk through a metal detector.

So now it's just a play, and not a cause -- surely better for everybody, artists and church people alike.  (And, stripped of its causiness, the show sounds considerably better than it did at first, even if it also sounds a bit dull).  

But there is one change in this production which seems noteworthy.  The hero's twelve friends were originally all played by men; now some of the parts are taken by women

We quite like this.  Not because of anything to do with Scripture (yes, there are women identified as "apostles" in the Bible; no, they aren't numbered among the Twelve; and, honestly, those old arguments won't be resolved by any play, least of all this one), but for other reasons.  The first is dramatic:  Gay men, like most other men, do have female friends, and often very close ones.  Recognizing this adds a bit of verisimilitude.

But in a sorta-kind-religious-allegory, verisimilitude is at best a secondary concern.   The second reason we like the addition of women is that there are two (overlapping) communities in which women have frequently been treated very poorly:  In the church, and -- friends notwithstanding -- among gay men.  In both cases, the mistreatment has probably been a side effect of other things, rather than a goal unto itself.  But that doesn't make it any less hurtful or wrong.  And in both cases, a little maturity goes a long way, and we see this newest, umm, incarnation of Corpus Christi as a more mature event all the way around. 

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