Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Busy World is Hushed

A woman Episcopal priest, a gay assitant, a gay son, death and dying, conflict, self-discovery, all are central to Kenneth Bunin's "A Busy World is Hushed." The Episcopal Church and its via media theology is a perfect setting to allow the characters in Bunin's play to explore their complex relationships.

Hannah is an Episcopal priest, biblical scholar, seminary professor and Thomas' mother. Before Thomas was born his father committed suicide. Thomas is a wonderer who has meandered in and out of contact with his mom - their relationship is strained because of Hannah's fear and subsequent attempt to protect Thomas from suffering his father's depression and anger. Thomas' response is at times volatile and could be self destructive.

The story begins with Hannah's receipt of a newly discovered "gospel." To assist her in writing a book about her translation and interpretation of the new gospel text, she hires Brandt. Within the first scene, it is obvious that Brandt has fallen for Thomas. It gets extremely complicated when Hannah attempts to "use" Brandt to help stablize Thomas. The outcome is somewhat predictable. However, the emotions are genuine and often raw.

Bunin's play allows Thomas and Brandt to explore their relationship with authentic lines and scenes. Thomas' mistrust and doubt of his mother's faith is confrontative and harsh - it is very reflective of a young adult's challenge of their clergy parent's religion. It is painful to watch Hannah's character do too much preaching and not enough relationship building.

Her character, unfortunately, isn't given the opportunity to translate her desire to find the historical Jesus into a post-Easter Jesus who can communicate with a post-modern world and the young adults who live in it. That was very disappointing. There are Christians who are struggling to translate Jesus' life into a world looking for spiritual meaning. Unfortunately, Bunin fails to give Hannah a chance to be one of those voices.

The play was worth the money and the time. It provoked good conversation among our young adult group who attended.

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