"The Busy World Is Hushed": Theater Review

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Through May 1 at New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. $2- $36; 861-8972 or www.nctcsf.org.

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It's immensely satisfying to witness a well-reasoned theological debate without heavy-handed hysterics. Keith Bunin's rigorous and enjoyable play is just that, an examination of the essence of Jesus and the reality of faith, plus homosexuality and the family itself. Episcopal minister Hannah (Lindsey Murray), who believes the Bible "is a self-contradictory, haphazardly edited compilation," is developing a book examining a newly unearthed early gospel. She hires Brandt (William Giammona), a talented but wounded young gay man to ghostwrite it for her. The trinity is rounded out when Hannah's charismatic and lost son returns home and falls for Brandt. Given this setup, it's a relief that the play avoids the obvious conflict between homosexuality and the church. Bunin's thoughtful yet wordy script instead concerns characters wanting to see others clearly and without prejudice: a minister searching for the undistilled Jesus, a son wanting to get to know a long-gone father, and a writer wanting to see himself and his desires without obstruction. The performances are charismatic and grounded, and the debates are well-constructed and evenhanded. Altogether, this makes for a great night of theater.

 
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