Wednesday, June 17, 2009

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

I really wish I had been the first to write a play, or a book, or a dissertation, or anything, really, with that title. But Tony Kushner beat me to it. What I can't figure out is, why this play premiered at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. I thought Tony Kushner plays could only premier in New York City, leaving us benighted Midwesterners to lap up the crumbs fallen from the tables of the cultured East Coast. Things being what they are, I really had to see this play. I really had to see any play with this title, whether it had been written by Tony Kushner or not. And I did, last night, with my whole family.

The truth is, just about any play written by Tony Kushner could have that title, since I'm not sure that Tony Kushner has yet written a play that was not, at heart, a guide to Capitalism and Socialism, with a key to the scriptures, written by one of America's most intelligent homosexuals. This particular play of that title was about an old man who has gathered his family together one last time, to announce to them his intention to sell his New York brownstone home for $4 million, and then kill himself so that they can have a decent inheritance. And it is about this man's forty-something gay son, who is forced by the hustler he's been having an affair with to choose between his lover and his husband of seventeen years. And it is about the old man's lesbian daughter, who must decide how hard she will fight to keep her father from killing himself.

The gay son character, oddly enough, is a gay man in his forties with an African American husband, who did his doctoral work in History and who lives in Minneapolis. That's about where the resemblance between this character and me ends. I could be a character in a Kushner play, though. Me, the forty-something gay man, whose African American husband of seventeen years must decide if he can forgive me for discovering that after two decades excommunicated from the Mormon Church, I can't deny my faith. Tony Kushner really should write a play about me. Or maybe I should write a play about me.

The beauty of a really good play is that you watch it, and you realize that -- whoever or whatever the characters are -- it is really about you. About your hopes, your fears and your struggles. And this play was definitely one of those.

And what is the "Key to the Scriptures"? There is a very scriptural question at the heart of this play. That question is, What gives life meaning? Is it spirit or is it the flesh? Or is it their convergence?

This is my key to the scriptures: Life is too precious a gift to waste on ingratitude.

Thank you, Tony Kushner.

3 comments:

Sean said...

Hey Stranger :D

As one who has studied for sometime Political Science an stayed, well, sane, I was intrigued by your posts title.
The plot sounds more family "crisis" related than Poly/Economical, but I am curious enough to find the script and read through it.
I love discussing these issues as they relate to modern scriptures. Have you ever read a book called "Working towards Zion"? it is hard to find but does have some intriguing insights to both Capitalism as thought of by Adam Smith vs contemporary capitalism vs socialism.
warmest regards
sean/Loyalist

J G-W said...

Sean: trust me, no Tony Kushner play misses any opportunity to examine the relationship between politics and economics and personal life and meaning. The main character in the play participated in the longshoremen strikes in New York in 1934, is a life-long member of the Communist Party USA, and raised his kids as good atheists on socialist doctrine. His sister (who is an important character I didn't mention in my review) is a former Catholic nun who has spent her life in various spiritual quests. The respective partners of the lesbian daughter and the gay son are theologians, who have also been wrestling their whole lives with belief in God. All of this plays into how the characters wrestle with the grand question of how we find meaning -- whether through material pursuits and class struggle, or whether by elevating the spirit over the flesh.

Given what you've said interests you, I'm sure you'd enjoy the play...

santorio said...

i'll look for it to come to seattle, can't imagine it will be long wait, given the gay-friendly face this town tries to put on