Making its Twin Cities premiere at Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company, Jon Marans’ play addresses the struggle for many to accept their homosexuality while adhering to their religious beliefs, in this case those of Orthodox Judaism.
Nate Cheeseman’s Stuart is a doctor and recent baal teshuva, or convert from nonobservance to Orthodox. He believes he can be part of a new breed of gay men, “discreet but open”. The drama opens with him making a visit to Elena Giannetti’s Phyllis’ Upper West Side home to hire her to cater a party. When we first meet Phyllis she is frazzled. She is the stay at home mother of an autistic 7 year old boy. We never see her son, Ethan, but we frequently hear him.
Stuart and Phyllis bond over their shared love of art and form a friendship. It isn’t until Phyllis invites Stuart over to share Sabbath dinner with her family do things get awkward. Phyllis’ husband, Jay (Brandon Bruce), is a psychologist who offers therapy for “same-sex attraction disorder,” not the ideal ice breaker with a gay guest. It soon becomes apparent things aren’t as they appear…Stuart and Jay are lovers.
A Strange and Separate People attempts to explore if it is possible to be religious and gay. Can you embrace a faith that rejects you?
A Strange and Separate People continues at the Hillcrest Center Theater, 1978 Ford Parkway, St. Paul, MN 55116. For more information on the show or to purchase tickets, visit the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company’s website.
Photo Credit: Sarah Whiting