Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jewish, Broadway and ...Gay

From a review of a new play

Leviticus 18 seems fairly forthright on the subject of homosexuality: "You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." But Stuart (Noah Weisberg)—a gay gastroenterologist and a recent convert to Orthodox Judaism—thinks he's found a work-around. He argues that the text refers only to "anal penetration. So if I don't do any of that, I'm OK. Blessed."

Yet none of the characters in Jon Marans's ' Strange and Separate People' - a love triangle in which two of the characters wear yarmulkes — are particularly fortunate or glorified. None of them gets what they want, and what they want alters vastly, if predictably, in the course of the 90-minute drama.

...none of the roles feels fully inhabited, and the characters' backstories appear conveniently dramatic fillips rather than aspects of fully realized lives. Much of this owes to the script, in which characters narrate their distress with lines such as "So you never really loved me" and "Maybe you don't know me either." Marans has his hands on some powerful material, but another rewrite or two would seem a mitzvah.

From another review:

Take it on faith, rather than from the formal dramaturgy, that Stuart (Noah Weisberg) has good reason to be sitting in the glatt kosher kitchen of a housewife named Phyllis (Tricia Paoluccio). Apply some of that faith, too, to the play's claim that this stressed-out woman somehow manages to run Phyllis's Orthodox Catering while caring for a severely autistic child and attending to the domestic needs of her old-school husband, Jay (Jonathan Hammond), a clinical psychologist specializing in "same-sex attraction disorder" and a devout Orthodox Jew who serves as cantor at the local temple.

Once past the awkwardness of all this introductory exposition, Jay and Stuart -- now revealed as having an existing, and most unorthodox relationship -- sit down with Phyllis to share in "the quiet beauty" of the Sabbath meal.

There is, indeed, quiet beauty in this scene, and the thesps play it well. Weisberg finds the religious sincerity in Stuart's busy-body directions on how to sing the blessing of the bread, Hammond discovers real feeling behind Jay's macho bluster, and Paoluccio is especially good at working her way through feisty Phyllis's dawning awareness that something is going on between these two men that is definitely not kosher.

Of course, there's another verse there, 20:23, which contains this prohibition:

And ye shall not walk in the customs of the nations

which would "solve" the character's problem.

Lucky he isn't Muslim, though.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Check these:

Feldman, D.M. Birth Control in Jewish Law. NY: New York Univ. Press, 1968.

Feldman, D.M. “Homosexuality and Jewish Law,” Judaism 32, no. 4 (1983) p. 426-29.