I have avoided writing all but the occasional book review for most of my writing life, and writing a theatre review has truly never crossed my mind. But after seeing “Oblivion” workshopped at the U of C yesterday, I’m going to set aside my reluctance to do a review for which I have no credentials at all, and give you my play-goer’s reaction. Unfortunately, today was the last performance of Oblivion, but I have no doubt at all that there will other opportunities to see this play, so I’m urging you to remember the play and the playwright — Oblivion by Jonathan Brower. Store it in one of the accessible files in your brain even if all you can recall when you hear it mentioned again is that it was highly recommended.
I attended the play primarily because the playwright, Jonathan Brower, will be moderating the Calgary launch of A Family by Any Other Name; Exploring Queer Relationships, at which Dale Kwong and I will be reading, and which my home church will be hosting.
Oblivion: A Workshop Production, introduces Tim, a gay man raised in the evangelical church who is struggling with the inner conflict between his faith and his sexuality while contemplating a radical vaccine that would eliminate his ‘religious gene.’
For a more lengthy description of the play and playwright visit the Gauntlet’s website: http://www.thegauntlet.ca/story/reconciling-faith-and-sexual-orientation
But here’s the story from the perspective of this member of yesterday’s audience:
Tim, the young gay man portrayed in the play is torn — in fact, his church and his friends in the secular world, are pulling so hard in opposite directions that I believed so completely in the character that I could feel those arms grabbing/pulling/insisting.
There is the religious world, an evangelical pastor, Quinn, who runs a program to restore people like Tim (who is on the “Path to Perversity”) to heterosexuality, insisting that this is the only way that he will remain acceptable in God’s eyes. Quinn admits that Tim’s attraction to other males will never go away, but he will simply have to suppress it either through celibacy or in a relationship with a woman.
The secular world, embodied in Tim’s friend, Simone, insists that the only thing standing in his way to becoming the person he’s meant to be, is the hurt that his church has inflicted on him, and the faith that he continues to cling to. She has found the answer for him; an experimental vaccine that will rid him of his “religious gene.”
The play brings remarkable authenticity to the disparate influences in Tim’s life. It also sensitively portrays Tim’s relationship with Morgan, the one person who understands what’s tearing Tim apart and whose love for Tim is stronger than either of the two sides working so fiercely to claim him.
The vacccine, of course, only heightens Tim’s suffering and confusion. Simone will not be pleased with Tim’s response, and Quinn, by the end of the play is on her knees weeping, pleading with God Because I am a Christian, and I understand very well the struggles of the church in accepting and affirming, I appreciated and was touched by the anguish of Quinn’s prayers in the end, pleading with God to show her what’s she done wrong in failing to bring Tim back into the fold.
For me, this play was perfectly balanced.
As the mother of three children I love with all my heart, Tim’s struggle reminded me of our our daughter’s coming out and the deep well of courage she tapped into in doing so.
As a Christian, a member of a church that wrestled with acknowledging that sexual orientation is not a choice, with accepting the iblessing of same-sex marriages, and with affirming these beliefs by ordaining clergy without prejudice toward sexual orientation, I anguished with Quinn in her pleading with God to help her understand.
In Morgan’s steadfastness, I saw my daughter and her partner’s deep love for another and the commitment to their marriage.
I offer Jonathan congratulates and thanks for creating this important piece of theatre, and applaud the wonderful actors who brought it to life. Bravo.
Jonathan we will be blessed by your company on April 26th.
No matter more where you stand– gay or straight, believer or non-believer — I urge you to read A Family by Any Other Name, and what better place to buy your copy than at the Calgary launch. Don’t trust the files in your mind, write this one down:
Book Launch: A Family by Any Other Name Saturday, April 26 2:00 PM at Lutheran Church of the Cross 10620 Elbow Dr. SW
Readings by Dale Lee Kwong and Betty Jane Hegerat. Q&A moderated by Jonathan Brower who we hope will be an active contributor to the discussion. Refreshments. Book sales. We expect the audience to include members of the LGBT community, members of the hosting church, and other affirming congregations as well those in churches who still struggle. As always, we expect members of the writing community, who support one other in inspiring ways. Imagine the opportunity for discussion. Come.