Terrence McNally's controversial Christ play Corpus Christi rises again, opening its Los Angeles debut Aug. 17 at the Lillian Theatre in Hollywood. Chad Allen of "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" co-produces the drama with God Help! productions. Corpus Christi is set to run through Oct. 21.
Set in 1950s south Texas, Corpus Christi depicts the life of gay Christ-like figure named Joshua and the relationships he forms with his twelve disciples, including a Judas-like lover, a lawyer and a male prostitute.
When Corpus Christi made its debut in October, 1998 at the Manhattan Theatre Club, protests from the Catholic League of Religious and Civil Rights and fringe extremist groups almost led to the play's cancellation. Only counterprotests from the arts community including a petition signed by playwrights Tony Kushner, Craig Lucas, Marsha Norman, Lanford Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein, and Larry Kramer and the threatened loss of Athol Fugard's The Captain's Tiger, brought reinstatement of the play into the MTC season. Throughout the run, protests continued.
Recently, Corpus Christi again sparked controversy when Purdue University students sought to stage it Aug. 10-18 in the theatre department's 120-seat Studio Theatre. Allen County residents and 21 state lawmakers are attached to a federal lawsuit that claims it is unconstitutional to mount the play on taxpayer-funded property because it would represent a state-sponsored attack on Christianity.
Other plays by McNally are Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Lisbon Traviata and Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune. He won Tony Awards for best book of a musical for both Ragtime and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Kristin Hanggi directs. Her previous credits include the multi-award winning pop musical bare, Glen Mary Glen Rose: Women Do Men and the gothic southern drama, Crane, Mississippi.
Nicholas Downs stars as Joshua with Aaron Lohr as Judas. Also in the cast are Scott Allgauer (Thaddeus), James Barry (Andrew), James Barry (Andrew), Adam Donshik (Matthew), Matt Huhn (Bartholomew), Alec Ledd (Thomas), Derrick McMillion (Simon), Leigh Miller (James/Joshua Understudy), Scott Paetty (James the Less), Justin Rubin (John the Baptist) and David Shepard (Philip).
The design team features Nick Keslake (sets), Danielle Bray (costumes) and Jay Bolton (lighting). Damon Intrabartolo (bare) will compose the original score.
Tickets are $27.50. The Lillian Theatre is located at 6322 Santa Monica Boulevard. For reservations, call (310) 289-2999. The God Help! production of Corpus Christi is on the web at http://www.corpuschristila.com.
— By Christine Ehren