(Jeremy Gerard's article appeared on Bloomberg June 11.)
Kushner’s ‘Intelligent Homosexual’ Premieres at Guthrie: Review
In the land of Lake Wobegon, these last few weeks have belonged to Tony Kushner as the Guthrie Theater turned its entire, astonishingly beautiful Minneapolis complex over to three of his plays, including the world premiere of “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures.”
Brevity, as anyone familiar with his most famous work, “Angels in America,” already knows, is not the soul of Kushner’s wit. In the new play, an Italian-American family’s Brooklyn brownstone becomes the setting for clan warfare that continues for three-and-a-half hours. (The length is likely to change as the play wends its way to New York.)
Son Pier, known as Pill, is a high-school history teacher married to a black man but obsessed with a white hustler, upon whom he has lavished $30,000 borrowed from his sister, Maria, known as Empty.
Divorced from Adam, who lives in the basement, Empty is having a baby with her pregnant lover Maeve. The seed for the baby was planted by Empty’s and Pill’s brother Vito, a working- class hero who was counting on inheriting the house. Unfortunately, father now plans to sell it before making good on his threat to commit suicide. Dad’s sister, Benedicta, known as Bennie, is an ex-nun who works with the poor in New Jersey; her unflappable presence is nearly spectral.
Pulling the strings is Augusto Giuseppe Garibaldi Marcantonio, the father known as Gus. He’s a retired longshoreman, fiercely but imperfectly committed socialist and, lately, translator of Horace from the original Latin. The Marcantonios and their kith have an astonishing capacity to hurt, love, parry, thrust and, above all, talk. We will learn, on this unsentimental journey, a great deal about the labor movement in New York, the consequences (or possibilities) of paying for sex, the housing market, dry-wall construction.
The play’s style varies nearly as much as its themes. Father-child confrontations may have the solemn grace of an Arthur Miller moral drama or a Bernard Shaw moral farce (the title is a play on Shaw’s 1927 pamphlet, “The Intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism and Capitalism”). No-holds-barred free-for-alls with overlapping dialogue recall the Robert Altman of “Nashville.”
Guthrie Web site: http://www.guthrietheater.org/