Before he had Ellen DeGeneres to kick around, Jerry Falwell had to rely on his own, fetid creativity to grab headlines for his denunications of gay lifestyles. In a fit of cutesy righteousness, the Rev once floated this memorable sound bite: "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."
When Falwell came out with that pearl of swinedom, I was in high school. My best friend at the time was a guy named Adam.
Gym class was hell.
Yes, a lot of folks have suffered at the foot of Falwell's bully pulpit. But at least we have a play to show for it: Paul Rudnick's "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told," which begins performances Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Parliament House. In Rudnick's comedy, Falwell's notorious comment is turned on its head. The origins of humankind, the playwright demonstrates, do indeed date back to a same-sex couple named Adam and Steve -- as well as a lesbian pair named Jane and Mabel. Cast out of paradise, these four wanderers journey through the ages together, and what they find allows Rudnick to put a gay old spin on key Biblical events and personages.
"The show is so well-written it's hilarious," says Tommy Wooten, who plays Adam and mounted the show through his Pot Luck Productions theater company. Hilarity is what one would expect from Rudnick, who proved his satirical mettle with the plays "I Hate Hamlet" and "Jeffrey" and the movies "Addams Family Values" and "In & Out." (Let's not mention "Isn't She Great," deal?) But neither is Pot Luck any slouch, having earned significant acclaim with its first production, the 2001 Orlando International Fringe Festival hit "Lone Star." Like that show, "Most Fabulous Story" is directed by Ray Hatch, who Wooten estimates has directed him four or five times in his career.
Though Wooten says that Rudnick's play has "a huge spiritual undercurrent," he admits that it is primarily a send-up with "something to offend every religious group." (Does this mean that Muslims are fair game again? I vote that you tell Muhammad Ali.) The premiere run of "Most Fabulous Story" in New York City drew its share of protesters, he recalls -- but that was back in 1999, when the Big Apple's definition of a crisis was a lot more mundane than it is now. For similar reasons, the show's Central Florida premiere should remain controversy-free. One or two parishioners of Joy Metropolitan Community Church may find their allegiances challenged, but that's about it.
"I imagine that some people will be offended, but I think it's beautiful," Wooten says.
He has similar praise for the Parliament House, which extended its Footlights Theater to the troupe free of charge, as part of its ongoing campaign to host live theater on a regular basis. "Most Fabulous Story" occupies the Footlights for three consecutive Saturdays, then adds Fridays for the final three weeks of its run. An actor's-night performance is booked for Dec. 3.
Can this "Story" get any happier? Sure. Wooten has a personal reason to relish his role: He attended Liberty University, Falwell's school in Lynchburg, Va.
"It's where I met my first boyfriend!" he lauds. "So I'm doing this for Jerry."
Nice gesture. But I wouldn't expect a thank-you fruitcake.
Triumph of the Will
Is the film career of SAK Comedy Lab Rat Will Maier weighty enough to warrant a retrospective? Find out Friday, Nov. 16, at Stardust Video & Coffee, as Maier screens "Meeting Michael Stipe," his 2000 short about his ill-fated effort to confront the R.E.M. frontman, and Breakdown, a newer mockumentary in which Maier plays an accomplished breakdancer. Director John Webb's exhumation of that early-'80s street fad was "pretty much a year ahead of "Zoolander,"" the star agrees.
The collaboration between the latter two has been long and fruitful: Maier played the lead role in Webb's 1997 short, "Goiter Boy," which won a Student Academy Award and was exhibited at Cannes. Webb, a Florida State University graduate now working in Los Angeles, recently cast the visiting Maier in a feature film based on the Eustis vampire murders of a few years back. Along with Orlando expatriates Trey Stafford and Ian Covell, Maier donned bad-kid garb to flesh out the scenes of role-playing skullduggery, then switched to police blues to impersonate one of the real-life cops who put the young fiends in handcuffs.
And how did Maier pull off that double duty without shooting the film's continuity to hell? "When I'm dressed up as the vampire kid, I wear a really stupid hat," he says. Ah, movie magic at its finest.
After two years of promises and delays, the locally produced hip-hop comedy "The Bros." is in the can -- almost. Writer/director Jonathan Figg showed a "98 percent finished" digital-video version of the 35mm film Oct. 25 at London's Raindance Film Festival. The response, he reports, was extremely positive. The Raindance program called the picture "a confident comedy of manners that examines the racial preconceptions of middle-class white America." I think they meant to say, "It's da bomb, yo," but there are some thoughts the Queen's English simply can't convey.
Something to drink about
The next fund-raiser for the 2002 Fringe Festival will be held Dec. 3 at the Peacock Room. A $50 ticket buys live performances, a wine tasting, silent auction and (hopefully) the unveiling of the official Fringe martini. "This festival has needed its own martini for a long time," says Chris Gibson, the Fringe's new executive producer ... An exhibit of paintings by Jennifer Wilfong will be presented Nov. 16 and 17 in the fourth-floor studio above OVAL on Orange. That's the space formerly occupied by the Fourth Floor Artists, the young tenants who lost their lease on the property after some made disparaging public comments about their landlord, the Orlando Visual Artists' League [Orlando Weekly, Aug. 23]. "They're gone. Outta there," an OVAL member took pains to point out while phoning in the Wilfong information. Sounds like somebody else gets no fruitcake this Christmas.