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A CurtainUp DC Review
The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures

"Labor creates wealth and wealth creates labor" .— Gus to his son V, quoting Adam Smith.
intelligent homosexua
Josh Adams (Eli) and Lou Liberatore (Pill)
9Photo by C. Stanley)
Everyone talks at once in the opening scene of Tony Kushner's megillah, The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide To Capitalism and Socialism With a Key To The Scriptures now playing at Theater J in Washington, DC. Pill (short for PierreLuigi Marcantonio) is having an argument with his husband of many years, Paul. The source of conflict is Pill's obsession with Eli, a hooker with an Ivy League education. Empty, aka Maria Teresa, sister of Pill and Vito, known as V) who is barren, is arguing with her father Gus and Gus's sister Zeeko, over Gus's failed attempt to take his own life. They have come together in Gus's Brooklyn townhouse to try to dissuade Gus from committing suicide.

Gus, in a powerful performance by Tom Wiggin, claims to have Alzheimer's disease but what he's really saying is that the kind of life he has lead as a longshoreman and union organizer no longer exists. "Don't die because you are bored," his children implore. The family's interconnections are not only genetic but by their choice of profession. That Gus is a reader of Horace and other classics requires some suspension of disbelief but the honesty, loyalty and sense of purpose he brought to his work is very real.

One son, Pill, who never finished his dissertation, teaches high school history. The other son V is a private contractor, a muscle man. Daughter Empty is a labor lawyer and her same-sex partner, Maeve, who is pregnant, is a theologist as is Pill's partner Michael.

What is Kushner saying in his over-written, under-edited intellectually pretentious three hours and thirty minute play? A lot.

His topics include the right to die, history of the labor movement, Marxism, capitalism, working with one's hands, solipsism, dialectical materialism, George Bernard Shaw, communism, and every New Yorker's obsession, the real estate market. It's not all lecturing about important concepts though. There are enough witty lines delivered very rapidly to keep the audience amused between Big Thoughts. In fact it is very funny and, at times, very sad. But Kushner, who is well-read, intelligent and extremely intellectual, repeats his themes as though he wants to make sure that if the audience did not get the point the first time, they should be reminded. His dialogues are sharp, barbed, especially when the lines, jokes and one-liners are delivered with the speed and accent of hardened, old-time New Yorkers.

To say that Director John Vreeke has squeezed every last bit of emotion, vigor, and intensity out of his cast would be an understatement. Every actor is working at full tilt and all are a pleasure to watch. Even their physical gestures are memorable.

Tom Wiggin's Gus, Lou Liberatore's Pill, Josh Adams's Eli and James Whalen's Adam are particularly strong. Lisa Hodsoll as Maeve is very funny indeed. Rena Cherry Brown as Zeeko has some of the most sardonic lines and she delivers them with dead-pan grace.

Jared Mezzocchi's projections added little to Misha Kachman's set, a Brooklyn brownstone on the waterfront that has been in Gus's family for many years, drew too much attention to a cracked wall and the shelves filled with books suspended on both sides of the stage seem like an afterthought rather than a symbol of the power of knowledge.

The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures by Tony Kushner
Directed by John Vreeke
Cast: Lou Liberatore (Pill); Josh Adams (Eli); Michael Anthony Williams (Paul); Susan Rome (Empty); Tim Getman (V); Tom Wiggin (Gus); Rena Cherry Brown (Zeeko); Lisa Hodsoll (Maeve); Sue Jin Song (Sooze); James Whalen (Adam); Jenifer Belle Deal (Shelle)
Production Designer Misha Kachman
Lighting Designer Dan Covey
Projections Designer Jared Mezzocchi
Running time 3 hours and 30 minutes with two 10-minute intermissions.
Theater J, Washington DCJCC, 1529 16th Street, NW;Washington, DC 20036;; tickets $35; 202-777-3230
November 13 to December 21, 2014. Review by Susan Davidson based on November 18, 2014 performance.
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