The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures

In Tony Kushner’s new play, a family patriarch's threat to commit suicide becomes a backdrop to musings on politics, gay issues, spiritual concerns and other fraught issues.

Public Theater, New York

(212) 967-7555


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At its most basic, this new play is about “a squabbling Italian family” holed up in a Brooklyn brownstone, said Linda Winer in Newsday. But since its creator is Tony Kushner, the “master of the form-busting, socially subversive epic,” you can be sure that the members of this boisterous clan “aren’t yelling about supper.” Addressing everything from “obscure ecclesiastical theories” to the nature of work, the drama, Kushner’s first major play in nearly a decade, is a testament to his fierce intellectual ambition. Yet its constant stream of ideas, plotlines, and literary references offers more clutter than insight.

The problems begin with the main story line, which has a “bogus air,” said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. The family patriarch, played by Michael Cristofer, is an ex-longshoreman and lifelong Communist who has just announced his intention to commit suicide. The reason, he claims, is the onset of Alzheimer’s, but it’s soon clear that his choice has more to do with his profound dissatisfaction with the course of world history. His adult children include a lesbian daughter who’s a labor lawyer and a gay son whose unfinished dissertation gives the play its title. Their myriad troubles and opinions push the show to bursting: Kushner’s story is simply too slim to support three hours and 40 minutes of “diatribes on the state of politics, riffs on gay issues, and oblique musings on spiritual concerns.”

The play shares with Kushner’s Angels in America “the same central concern,” said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. Namely: “How do we live when the old systems of belief and morality have fallen apart?” Though that question goes unanswered, some viewers may be content to simply revel in Kushner’s “heady language,” especially given the fine performances here. But Angels established Kushner as a great playwright. “In Guide, he registers mainly as a great conversationalist who keeps talking well after he has made his essential points.”

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