You can sometimes tell that a play can be a bit of a mouthful because of its title, specifically the Bush Theatre’s production of, ‘We Are Proud to Present…’ a number of years ago and for me individually the play’s title can be exceedingly pretentious and longwinded too. The Hampstead Theatre’s production of Tony Kushner’s play, ‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures’ was rather aloof and for me it appeared there was an array of nonsense and actually quite dull, additionally, the performances were tedious.
‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures’ is set in Brooklyn, New York City in 2007 where we are acquainted with the Marcenatario family who have been brought together due to the fact that the Patriarch of the family, Gus (David Calder) is yearning to commit suicide as he is suffering from Alzheimer’s and is seeking acceptance from his family. Fractious energy intensifies as Gus’ three children, lawyer Empty, gay history lecturer Pill and labourer V (Lax Shrapnel) have opposing views on this as Gus is their parent, and furthermore, Gus’s sister and ex-nun, Maoist Cleo (Sara Kestleman) has her say on the subject too. Over the course of the performance, the Marcenatario’s relentlessly quarrel with one another when they talk over one another as they discuss the pressing issue of Gus’ suicide plans and this is a regular occurrence in the play. The tension becomes rather overwhelming when the ex-spouses and present partners enter the fray and begin to argue about Gus’ own self-destruction and this includes Pill’s soon to be former boyfriend, Paul Davis (Rhasan Stone), Empty’s ex-husband, Adam Harvey (Daniel Flynn), V’s wife, Sooze Moon (Katie Leung) and Empty’s girlfriend, Maeve Ludens (Sirine Saba). One sources of the conflict is who will be the new owner of Gus’ house and we soon learn that Adam has already purchased the house which leaves the family gob-smacked. On a slightly different note, Pill has a been visiting a male escort, Eli who in actual fact is one of Pill’s students and it seems that Pill does have a soft for Eli despite that Pill is seeing Paul and Eli is in need of the cash. Throughout the performance, Gus has some deep and meaningful scenes with all three of his children and how he is a much needed person in their lives. Nonetheless, Gus is adamant that he will go through his suicide plans and the instruments are placed neatly on the table and in the process he is interrupted by Pill’s toy boy, Eli and at the finale, Gus goes through with what he originally planned to do and now the children are left to mourn and of course bicker. Kushner’s narrative is enormously verbose as the political elements within the plot does not cut the mustard is just vague and boring and the actual premise is disjointed and simply ludicrous and a bit of a shambles if I am brutally honest.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures’ were slightly horrible as I couldn’t get into the characteristics of the roles due to an abysmal lack of emotions and this is truly disastrous and garbage. Tamsin Greig is surprisingly lacklustre as Gus’ daughter, Empty; mainly the moments where she is with her apparent love of her life, Maeve and these moments appeared rather limited and this is a shocker as Greig is an awesome actually normally and also there wasn’t a decent amount of realism within the dynamic she has with her father. Richard Clothier is average as Gus’ gay son, Pill; especially how false he comes across where he tries to persuade Paul to stay, then again, it is rather harsh to see how he treats his toy boy,Eli and this is not exactly how you should be with anyone a part from the fact that he is an escort. Luke Newberry is satisfactory as Pill’s male escort, Eli; primarily how at times he does prove quite normal because the Marcenatario family are a bunch of nutters and more often than not he has quite an intelligent mind and he must like Pill enough for the constant sexual advances.
Michael Boyd’s direction is horrendous here as he has not really been able to smooth round the edges of a plot that just doesn’t do it for me and the appalling characterisations from the company means there must have been a limited amount of rehearsal time and I just lost too much enthusiasm and excitement as the performance went on. Tom Piper’s set and costume design is extremely cruddy as the set itself may be rather large and this could not improve the show itself and the costumes did not impress me either and I was not taken to a Brooklyn atmosphere and did not look that great on the proscenium arch stage whatsoever. Overall, the experience of, ‘The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism With a Key to the Scriptures’ wasn’t that appealing and probably one of the shoddiest shows I have seen at the Hampstead Theatre and a waste of three and a half hours of my life which I won’t get back.