From playwright Tony Kushner, best known for his epic AIDS tragedy “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes,” you don’t exactly expect works that are short and light-hearted. And with a complete title like “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures,” Kushner’s latest, showing at The Public Theater, is a predictably rich, complex play about what it means to make sacrifices in order to seize ultimate control over your own world.
Clocking in at nearly four hours, “Intelligent Homosexual” could probably lose at least a half-hour of its tightly packed dialogue. On the other hand, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Named for the work-in-progress thesis of one character (Stephen Spinella) who’s torn between his husband and a hooker, the story’s premise is that of a communist father (Michael Cristofer) calling home his three adult children to debate whether or not he should commit suicide. The man’s eclectic family must negotiate, defend and ultimately bend their beliefs to reach a philosophical consensus with the highest stakes imaginable: a loved one’s life.
Blending theology, politics, sex, humor and despair, this production is as shaped by its stimulant ideas as it is by the marvelously realistic, effortlessly moving set by Mark Wendland. Like the conflicted characters themselves, the layered set pieces shift and break as they come to unfold their secrets.
For more theater news and reviews read T. Michelle Murphy’s blog, Well Played. Her latest blog includes an interview with playwright Jonathon Marc Sherman, whose latest play, ‘Knickerbocker,’ is at the Public Theater through May 29.