Monday, June 02, 2008

Boise 1955

My theatre streak continued this past weekend with the world premiere of “Boise U.S.A.” at the Matrix Theatre in Los Angeles.

Inspired by true events “Boise U.S.A” is the story of a city’s attempt in 1955 to eliminate homosexuality, a McCarthy era witch-hunt that divided families and community.
The first act opens on a November 1955 morning when the good-living, God-fearing folks of Boise awake to find their pristine community has been tarnished by the arrest of three men for “lewd and lascivious conduct.” What follows is a widespread effort by the homophobic Mayor to rid the town of all deviant men, the homosexuals. His efforts destroy families, instill fear, and create a town-wide near hysteria.

In the second act the prosecution’s case breaks down and the truth comes out. Unfortunately the damage has been done and lives will never be the same. It’s only by his own son’s suicide that the mayor realizes his campaign of hatred needs to end. What’s so sad is that a community rallied around their Mayor and believed him wholeheartedly.

One of the best, and most powerful scenes is when prisoner Joe Moore (wonderfully played by Kris Kamm) is about to be released and his wife (the intense Melissa Kite) visits him to discuss life after prison. He confesses that he does have homosexual feelings and has previously loved in man. She walks out saying she could easily have lived a life together without knowing the truth. That one sentence sums up the 1950s mentality.

Playwright Gene Franklin Smith has created a wonderful piece that is thought provoking and emotional, and challenges us to confront the fears that can provoke us to deny people their right to be who they are.

Director Arturo Castillo’s scene changes are a bit distracting and clunky, and the pacing tends to be slow especially during the first act, but as the tensions in the second act build Castillo gets the most out of the performances and everything comes together nicely for a powerful final scene.

“Boise U.S.A.” is worth the price of the ticket and I do recommend seeing it.

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