by Richard Dodds
A priest with doubts. Homosexuality in repression. Teenagers in rebellion. Mothers bewildered. And a cleaning woman desperately seeking faith. These are among the ingredients in 100 Saints You Should Know, Kate Fodor's play that takes on heated issues while strenuously not trying to take sides.
"It's a lovely play, understanding to all sides of the religion/homosexuality debate, with no easy answers," says Theatre Rhino's John Fisher, who is directing its area debut opening June 2 at Thick House. "We had two priests come in to talk to us about the play, and they were very sympathetic to the portrayal and to the issues raised."
100 Saints opened in New York in 2007, marking Fodor as a playwright to watch. An earlier play, Hannah and Martin, explored the complex relationship between philosophers Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, and her most recent play, Rx, takes a comedic look at Big Pharma and the invention of a miracle feel-good pill.
A former schoolteacher and journalist, Fodor says she first got the idea for the play that became 100 Saints from a dimly remembered news story about pedophilia in the priesthood that mentioned a priest's housekeeper. "I knew I wasn't interested in writing about the sex scandal itself," Fodor said in an interview the year that 100 Saints debuted, "but I got fascinated by the idea of what it would be like to be a priest's housekeeper, since it seemed like it would be your job to cross the line into some sort of intimacy."
The play, Fodor says emphatically, is not about pedophilia. The priest has taken a sabbatical as he struggles with faith and carnal desires of the adult homosexual kind. Coming at him from various directions are the cleaning lady (with a surly teenage daughter) looking for spiritual guidance, a delivery boy searching for a way to come out as gay, and the priest's uncomprehending mother.
Fodor says she is "a spiritual person who doesn't believe in God or tarot cards." She is creatively drawn to the mysteries that affect her own life. "Writing about an unsettled question doesn't settle the question," she said, "but it does create some peace around it. You've gone down that hole. Whatever the fears or doubts that are tied to that thing have a little less power over you."
100 Saints You Should Know begins previews May 31 at Thick House and will run through June 17. Call (800) 838-3006 or go to www.therhino.org.
'Heart' beats at ACT
Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, an angry diatribe about political and media indifference during the early days of the AIDS epidemic, may have seemed an issue play rooted in its time. But when the 1985 drama drawn from Kramer's own experiences as an AIDS activist was revived on Broadway last year, reactions were not those that a dated period piece might engender.
New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley wrote that the new production "blasts you like an open, over-stoked furnace," and his sentiments were widely shared. ACT has filled the final slot in its previously announced season with the new Broadway staging of The Normal Heart, and its turns out that that slot will come at the beginning of the season on Sept. 13.
ACT is presenting The Normal Heart in association with Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., where the production is having a June run. Although Joel Grey and George C. Wolfe were billed as co-directors of the Broadway revival, only Wolfe (who directed Angels in America on Broadway) is now credited as director.
Productions already announced for ACT's 2012-2013 season include a return run of Lorenzo Pisoni's Humor Abuse, Artistic Director Carey Perloff's staging of Elektra starring Olympia Dukakis, ACT acting core member Rene Augesen as Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire, and Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, directed by Perloff.
Two world premieres and one rare site-specific event are also in the lineup. The premieres are George F. Walker's Dead Metaphor, described as a dark comedy about a soldier trying to fit back into "normal" life after service in Iraq, and the hip-hop opera Stuck Elevator by Byron Au Yong and Aaron Jefferis, based on a true story of a Chinese restaurant delivery man who must decide whether calling for help from a stuck elevator is worth revealing his illegal immigrant status.
ACT will head down to the Mission Armory, also home to kink.com, to present National Theatre of Scotland's Black Watch. Written by Geoffrey Burke and directed by John Tiffany, it's an immersive multimedia production inspired by Scottish soldiers who served in Iraq.
Season tickets, with options for all or part of the series, are now on sale at www.act-sf.org.
Barbara Cook postpones
Sometimes you gotta cut octogenarian legends a little slack. The Rrazz Room reports that 84-year-old Barbara Cook, who was set to replace 87-year-old Elaine Stritch, is ailing, and that her May 29-June 10 run has been rescheduled for Aug. 21-26. Several other West Coast dates have also been deleted from her immediate calendar.
The Broadway, concert, and cabaret star had been a last-minute booking for the inimitable Elaine Stritch, whose run was also postponed due to health reasons. The Rrazz Room says that Stritch is still expected to play the boite on dates yet to be determined.