Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This Beautiful City @ the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Thanks to the Free Night of Theatre program, I got a chance to see the musical drama 'This Beautiful City' at the Kirk Douglas Theatre this past weekend.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect, but the play was free and I had always wanted to visit the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Nestled in the middle of downtown Culver City, I drove past it every day on my way home from work, but my type of theatre-fare tends to be fast-moving musicals, not slow moving plays. Mostly because I find it impossible to sit still for any length of time unless I'm totally absorbed (thanks to my ADHD).

And when I heard what the play was about I nearly choked in a disbelieving guffaw. 'This Beautiful City' was crafted together by a group of playwrights from a theatre company called 'The Civilians' who visited Colorado Springs. I know nothing about Colorado Springs, except that that is where Focus On the Family is from. Apparently, according to the play, it is also the Christian evangelical capitol of the world. And the lady who wrote 'America the Beautiful' wrote the song there. Because of the Rockies.

So basically, at first glance, this play is about a city. My inappropriate urge to laugh came not from snarky wonder, but from an unfortunate image of sitting through something of 'Waiting for Guffman' proportions.

What instead unfolded was a fascinating character study of life in an area where the Christians are working hard to 'take the city for Christ' while the other denizens work just as hard to claim bits and pieces for themselves. It didn't hurt that the team descended on the town in the midst of a proverbial (and relevant, considering what is going on in California today with Prop 8) firestorm, in which an amendment to the consitution was on the ballots to ban gay marriage in Colorado, and another measure was requesting equal rights for civil unions. Also, there was this head preacher of the New Life Church (with 14000 followers), who unfortunately chose this brilliant time to get caught for solicitating homosexual sex and drugs.

Interesting time to do interviews.

The cast was strong, and the music, in the vein of the Christian revivals resonated strongly with me. I may not have grown up Evangelical, but sitting through some of the 'church' sermons, I found myself transported, and nearly had to sit on my hands to keep from raising them or bowing my head in prayer when prompted. The majority of the second act consisted of this type of performance, and as a result felt weaker for me. Sitting through ONE sermon on Sunday was always tough on me, but sitting through ten? It brought back memories of my church heavy childhood, somewhat bittersweet. I may still love God and will always be a Christian, but the division of the church on matters that I support (gay rights being a big one) is nothing new to me.

The result was an interesting contrast of experiences for myself and my friend, who grew up in Catholic churchs and was fascinated by the differences between them.

Religous experiences aside, the play delves into the town without favoritism and with ferver, quite a feat considering the hot topics presented. Worth seeing, but beware, depending on your experience with the church, you'll be challenged to disengage.

A much more coherent review of the show is here at the LA Times.

And for logical argument regarding the great Prop 8 Debate, head over here.

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