"Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins": Theater Review

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Through Oct. 24 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. $24-$40; 861-8972 or www.nctcsf.org.

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Coming out as a gay teen has never been easy, despite what you may have seen on Bravo. Three decades ago, however, it was damn near impossible, especially in light of the nationwide antigay crusade led by former beauty queen and evangelical Christian Anita Bryant. Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins, directed with admirable sincerity by Dennis Lickteig and written by Brian Christopher Williams, is much more personal than political, despite its title. It chronicles the gay coming-of-age of the bright-eyed Horace Poore (Michael Doppe) in the '70s during a time of war, political scandal, and a terrible recession, which you'll find nicely parallels our current cultural landscape. You'll also find far too many gay rites-of-passage clichés here as well: a conservative small town; a family with strict gender roles; humor as a weapon against a society; internalized homophobia; and even a gym teacher crush. While Anita approaches such tropes with cheeky panache and soft-boiled sentiment, there's nothing particularly original about Horace's plight, and the play hums along at a sloping sitcom pace until its melodramatic pinnacle, which is just as quickly diffused. There are a few good laughs and a few more touching moments, though nothing quite as memorable as the re-enactment of Bryant getting a pie in the puss.

 
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