Night and Day: Wednesday, February 08, 2006
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Stage West takes on Christianity and homosexuality in its new production.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Bear Closet

By Jimmy Fowler

There are few more depressingly intractable conflicts in American public life than the ferocious divide between conservative Christians and proponents of gay rights. Despite the media fracas, many mainline Protestant denominations are at least grappling with the question: How fairly and compassionately are straight congregation members treating homosexual friends, family members, and fellow churchgoers, in flat-out condemning an orientation that’s as natural to gays as heterosexuality is to the guy who created Girls Gone Wild?

Into the fray steps Stage West with the world premiere of Embracing, a two-character script by Baylor University drama department head Stan Denman. Director Jim Covault calls it “a drama with some laughs,” although the issues involved will be raw and familiar to many people: At an unnamed Texas state university, two college friends (Jennifer Knight and Jason Thomas Mayfield) from deeply conservative Protestant backgrounds must deal with each other anew as Mayfield’s character comes out as gay. She takes her faith — including its rigid restrictions against same-sex relationships — as the guiding light of her life, so where does she go now that she’s sincerely convinced her best pal and longtime confidante is hell-bound? As the show unfolds, the old maxim about “hate the sin, love the sinner” proves to be much easier in theory than practice.

“I admit, I had a little bit of trepidation” about the script, said Covault, because Baylor University, whose theater department Denman has helped raise to national prominence, doesn’t have the most tolerant reputation in such matters. (The Baylor student handbook lists homosexual conduct as an offense that can merit, among other punishments, expulsion.) But Covault was captured by the honesty and dignity with which the playwright treated both characters and their struggles. In addressing a potentially divided audience, Covault said, “You may not have much sympathy for the other side, but hopefully you’ll get a better sense of the pain they both feel.”

Embracing runs Feb 10-March 12 at Scott Theatre, 3505 W Lancaster Av, FW. Tickets are $10-20. Call 817-STG-WEST.


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