So as I sit here bracing for The Great Winter Storm of 2013 it might be time to reflect on the Oklahoma City debut of Paul Rudnick's play, "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told." According to the daily paper, rehearsals opened Monday for the locally produced interpretation that will be held in The CitySpace auditorium, which is located in the basement of the Civic Center Music Hall.
I'm not familiar with the work, but it is described as a satirical take on the biblical Garden of Eden tale. It involves sharp humor and two homosexual couples, Adam and Steve and Mabel and Jane. According to Wikipedia, the New York Daily News review of the 1998 play includes this line, "You'll find yourself laughing uncontrollably throughout the entire evening." Another reviewer claimed, Rudnick, "is the funniest writer for the stage in the United States today."
That is all fine and good, however Oklahoma City isn't Broadway, or even off Broadway and outside of recorded history, there is nothing in the world more subjective than humor.
In Monday's "The Oklahoman," staff writer, William Crum noted a number of local pastors have determined, "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told" is, gross pornography.
According to Crum this largely unnamed posse of clergy even wrote a letter to both the OKC mayor and the state's governor asking the question, "why is it necessary to mock the Bible in the Christmas season?" Neither Mayor Mick Cornett, or Governor Mary Fallin answered the question directly. There could be a couple of reasons for that. Number one being no one ever said performing the play was necessary and two, they'd rather not hazard a guess as to what season the outraged pastors would prefer it to be run during. The Oklahoma City Theater Company could, I suppose, hold off until spring, but then there is Lent and Easter, which is closely followed by Pentecost. Indeed, the year is just chock full of holy seasons if you're a devout follower of the Christian church, so exactly when would be a good time?
Obviously the answer to that question, at least according to the hyper agitated ministers, would be never. In a move straight out of the arch conservative playbook, the letter also called on the state legislature to stop providing tax payer money to the Oklahoma Arts Council. What the Oklahoma Arts Council has to do with any of this is a bit murky. Crum pointed out the Council, in fact, refused a request to assist the funding of the production.
Of course there isn't a conservative out there, especially a born again Christian conservative who trusts anything with the word "art" in it. It is one of those huge bugaboos they deal with daily. On the most basic level artists creep them out. They don't understand their psyches and they really don't want the government to subsidize their efforts. In the end, they have this terrible feeling all art is not only decadent, but distinctly threatening, especially if it is something they don't like. It is rather the same way they feel about seeing a black guy in the white house, but I digress.
Interestingly Fallin and Cornett are keeping a discreet distance from all the hubbub. The last time Oklahoma City caved in to a bunch of morality cops it was 1997, a year before Rudnick penned "The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told." Following a series of shrill complaints from a born again Christian group called Oklahomans for Children and Families, some rube judge decided the metro area had been infested with pornography. The local police ended up confiscating copies of the film, "The Tin Drum," which had won the academy award for best Foreign Language Film. A few months later a federal judge ruled the hysterical nonsense unconstitutional and the national press eviscerated Oklahoma City and the yokels who appeared to be in charge. The Oklahoman reports by the time the city settled the legal challenges the tax payer tab was $700,000.
Cornett may pander to these goofs on election day, but given his painstaking make over of the town, which includes getting the national sports media in here on an almost weekly basis around nine months a year, one can hardly blame him for keeping low. This burg is a tough sell to begin with. It doesn't help if the outside perception is a bunch of guys who rant in tongues and dress in pastel colored sports jackets run herd over the place as if it was West Monroe, Louisiana.
So, ultimately what has come to pass is this. The good pastors raised just enough hell for the state's largest daily paper to print a lengthy lead story about a play which is going to open in a 2,800 square foot theater located in a basement tomorrow night. The metro population is right at 1.2 million souls. The venue seats barely 100 people. The run is ten performances and thanks to all the publicity and self righteous chest thumping I'm thinking the odds are now better than 50-50 the tiny hall will be filled for each and every one of them, despite a forecast of nightmarish weather. That is what happens when you tell Americans they shouldn't go see something. It also means that out of one million two hundred thousand humans, far less than 0.01 percent of them will witness what a handful of clergy consider heresy.
Ladies and gentlemen of the cloth, I have no idea what Paul Rudnick believes or doesn't believe. I do, however, have a sneaking suspicion his play really isn't about mocking the bible. But I'll tell you what--he is certainly doing a number on you. Trust me on that.
Watch out for that apple folks, there is no telling where it has been.
sic vita est