Homo(sexual) sapiens

“The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide …” is, if anything, a tour-de-force.

Michael Esper (Eli Wolcott) and Stephen Spinella (Pier Luigi Marcantonio [Pill]) in the world premiere of THE INTELLIGENT HOMOSEXUAL

Ashley Goetz

Michael Esper (Eli Wolcott) and Stephen Spinella (Pier Luigi Marcantonio [Pill]) in the world premiere of THE INTELLIGENT HOMOSEXUAL

WHAT: âÄúThe Intelligent HomosexualâÄôs Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the ScripturesâÄù WHEN: Until June 28 WHERE: McGuire Proscenium Stage at the Guthrie, 818 Second St. S. TICKETS: $29 – $60 If the fact that a character in âÄúThe Intelligent HomosexualâÄôs Guide to Capitalism & Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures,âÄù almost immediately asks, âÄúSo, any good theater in Minneapolis?âÄù makes it seem like the play is incredibly self-aware, thatâÄôs because it is. And if any literate theater-goer reads the title and assumes that the play will be wordier than the dialogue-drenched âÄúGilmore Girls,âÄù that assumption will also be correct. With a run-time of more than three hours and a scope that includes issues of economy, sexuality and the central problem of existentialism, âÄúThe Intelligent HomosexualâÄôs Guide âĦâÄù is a lot of things. Premiering for the first time at the Guthrie Theater, it will most likely be remembered as one of the most ambitious plays to enter the cannon of Twin CitiesâÄô theater. âÄúThe Intelligent HomosexualâÄôs GuideâÄù centers on the Marcantonio family, an Italian, working-class family with an above-average ratio of homosexual children and a Marxist backbone. Strayed over the years, the family has re-grouped to prevent the impending suicide of their father Gus, played with a tough East Coast accent by actor, playwright and screenwriter Michael Cristofer. The play is written by Tony Kushner of âÄúAngels in AmericaâÄù fame, who is increasingly described as Arthur MillerâÄôs successor in the lineup of great American playwrights. The flame of his growing celebrity is fueled by the GuthrieâÄôs season-long Kushner-fest , which also features âÄúA Bright Room Called DayâÄù and âÄúCaroline or Change.âÄù To top it off, the University of MinnesotaâÄôs College of Liberal Arts recently awarded him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree , which only 47 other influential individuals in history have received, among them Thomas Friedman (âÄúThe World is FlatâÄù) and Charles Schulz (âÄúPeanutsâÄù). KushnerâÄôs manic, all-encompassing writing style can be seen in this excerpt from his notes for âÄúThe Intelligent HomosexualâÄôs GuideâÄù where he writes that a homosexualâÄôs guide should chronicle âÄúthe tricks he uses to catch the attention of very young children, his nightmares, the death throes of his dearly beloved, newspaper accounts of calumny and torture, his weight, his bowels, his bibliomania, betrayals, loyalties, lossesâÄù âÄî and the list goes on. Kushner doesnâÄôt only want to deal with the big issues, but also the minute habits of individualâÄôs, their unique language and illusions. ThatâÄôs why the dialogue of âÄúThe Intelligent HomosexualâÄôs GuideâÄù constantly pitches rough colloquialisms against euphemisms and parables, forcing an acknowledgement of the general B.S. tied up in speech. When an older character is talking to a younger character about God, the younger character mocks, âÄúGod like in OMFG, that God?âÄù The college-educated characters speak in tirades of allusions, paradoxes and borrowed theories and savor rejecting any profundity in what one another is saying. In some moments, âÄúThe Intelligent HomosexualâÄôs GuideâÄù finds its endless dialogue reaching almost clairvoyant epiphany, and in some it falls flat. Eli Wolcott, a prostitute whose performance was made possible by the camel-backed memory of actor Michael Esper, is the playâÄôs most powerful tool for exploding meaning. With yellow-soled sneakers and an iPhone constantly in hand, the other characters want to view him as a victim, a fool of the tech generation who comfortably allows even his body to be commodified. But he makes one of the playâÄôs most powerful statements when he argues that he has made himself into an affliction that other people want to purchase. KushnerâÄôs philosophical insight, however, can also find itself lost in the clutter of words. In one scene, the family members argue in several concurrent conversations (one of the writerâÄôs favorite tropes) for upwards of ten minutes. While the scene does make the audience member feel an approximation of the actual pain of the situation, a less-celebrated playwright could not expect the audience to be willing to suffer for quite so long. And with âÄúThe Intelligent HomosexualâÄôs Guide,âÄù plenty of suffering is required. In almost every scene, the details are exhausted, the schematics are explored and re-explored and movement is slow. But patience will be rewarded, because after the three-hour production, everything from subjectivity to dildos morphs in the slanted, brilliant light of Tony KushnerâÄôs perspective.