Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Corpus Christi 

Terrence McNally’s play

Wednesday, Oct 25 2000
Comments
Terrence McNally's 1998 play is like those paintings that portray Jesus as African or Latin -- an attempt to expand the meaning of "created in his image" -- but where those attempts broaden, Corpus Christi shrinks and excludes. Despite McNally's incredible acclaim, he isn't a very good writer. His recasting of Christianity is humorously mordant about Jesus' childhood and the gathering of the apostles, and pious about the crucifixion. Essentially, it's a bitter, gay Godspell without the songs.

To begin, the actors are christened with the names of the apostles. The cast takes on various roles to demonstrate the cruelties of Joshua's gay boyhood in 1950s Texas. ("Joshua" is a variant of "Jesus.") Mary is a foul-mouthed cracker who's overbearing towards her son. Josh (teli Cardaci) attends Pontius Pilate High, where the jocks torment him. He goes to the prom with the only sympathetic female character (but she grows up to be a biddy), and has his first sexual encounter with schoolmate Judas (James Marks). After being tempted in the desert, he begins to recruit his apostles. McNally treats sex very oddly -- Judas is the only apostle who appears to enjoy it. Josh seems to remain chaste after the desert ordeal, as do his followers upon their conversions.

New Conservatory Theatre Center director Ed Decker mounts the show simply, and among the generally capable performances, Michael Billingsley is a real charmer. As Judas, Marks can be fine, but in intense, dramatic sequences, he over-emotes.

You can't help but respond to the familiar images of violence and crucifixion, but McNally's (presumably unintentional) negative views of women and sex are disastrous, and his strivings at sacrament and art fail. McNally also grew up in Corpus Christi in the '50s, and you wonder who exactly this Christ figure is. McNally succeeds only at claiming Christ for himself: He's as guilty as those he would attack.

About The Author

Joe Mader

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Slideshows

  • Trixxie Carr Presents: Maneater at Oasis
    January 14, 2015 was the first night of Trixxie Carr Presents: Maneater at Oasis in San Francisco. Photos by Calibree Photography.
  • No Pants BART Ride 2015 - NSFW
    The No Pants BART Ride commenced on Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015. Participants rode without pants, and at the end of the ride they disembarked at The Mission to bar hop, eat burritos and take selfies. Photos by Richard Haick.

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed