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The play’s
the thing

The play’s
the thing


Chad Allen's L.A. Corpus Christi adds new twists to Terrence McNally's passion play and promises Allen as the Christlike lead

When Chad Allen decided to produce the Los Angeles premiere of Terrence McNally's contemporary morality play Corpus Christi, he wanted a production worthy of the script he considers a "transcendent piece of theater."

Allen's production team brought on board Kristin Hanggi and Damon Intrabartolo--director and composer, respectively, of last year's award-winning Los Angeles musical Bare, which also dealt with matters of sexuality and religion. The addition of music, Allen felt, was vital to the piece. "It's a way to tell parts of the story that don't otherwise get told," he says. McNally approved the addition, although he was originally reluctant to do so.

The result is a dynamic production that uses the familiar arc of Jesus's life to tell the tale of Joshua (Nicholas Downs), who grows up gay in Corpus Christi, Tex. Joshua seeks truth in a world where little is evident--and is eventually destroyed for speaking it. "Expert timing and nuanced performances mine the full measure of pathos and unexpected comedy," judged Los Angeles Times critic Philip Brandes.

While the message of love and personal divinity is not unlike the one that has kept Godspell afloat all these years, it's the element of queer sexuality that has brought out the demonstrators everywhere Corpus Christi has been produced, beginning with its New York debut in the fall of 1998. In Los Angeles, reports associate producer and publicist Patty Onagan, the band of about 40 protesters on opening night, August 17, was peaceful and respectful. But the production had to hire security personnel to work nightly after a subsequent performance at which a ticketholder began to berate the cast during the show. (The play runs Thursdays through Sundays until October 21 at the Lillian Theater.)

For his part, Allen--who plans to step into the lead role in late September--is certain those protesting would cease doing so if they would just read or see Corpus Christi, which he thinks they would find, as he did, to be "deeply, deeply Christian."

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