. . . a feature, not a bug.
Houston's Alley Theatre is running "An Act of God," a loosely dramatized collection of irreverent one-liners about God by New York comedy writer David Javerbaum, late of "The Daily Show."
The script is troubling, writes critic Robert Donahoo.
Like so much stand-up comedy today, it is wickedly funny, but the humor depends on audiences weeded out . . .
. . . to those who largely agree with the author's philosophical premises. The result is laughter that rings hollow, a well-crafted diatribe that warrants no debate, no invitation to any but true believers -- something we get enough of on CNN and Fox. Oh, the audience will laugh, but the opportunity for a real act of God, for drama interested in treating our cultural wounds, will fade out with the giggles.
(Robert Donohoo, "Alley's 'Act of God' more for laughs than thought," The Houston Chronicle, April 5, 2017)
For longtime Alley watchers, this act of contempt for conservatives -- in this case, Christian religious conservatives -- is no surprise. The Alley pays its bills with sometimes perfunctory Shakespeare, plays from the American canon, light comedy, and Christmas chestnuts.
In return, the Alley management -- culturally elite to the core -- gets to throw two or three gut punches at Houston conservatives each year. Not just religious conservatives; also cultural, political, and economic conservatives. These are the Alley's annual improvement projects for the Sahara of the Bozart (look it up) that, to their sensibility, is Houston.
The Alley is to the theater (or, as the Alley would have it, theatre) what its former near neighbor, The Houston Chronicle, is to opinion journalism -- snotty and self-righteous, more or less openly contemptuous of the ideas and values of many customers.
The Chronicle's hard times are not entirely of its own doing. All print newspapers are suffering these days. But the Chronicle is also weeding out its dwindling audience by, among other things, adamantly refusing to hire even one local conservative opinion writer. This seems to be a point of some pride for the newspaper, and why not? The only acceptable range of opinion is from the left to the far left; all other ideas are found only in the basket of deplorables, not fit for polite company.
The Alley, also hurting for customers and money, is doing essentially the same thing. The theater books one or two intentionally offensive plays each season. Each is a poke in the eye for season ticket holders who love the theater but do not look to it advice on, say, theology. And who grow weary of being the target of New York-flavored mockery and contempt.
The Alley, like all businesses, has a God-given right to run itself into the ground. I can vaguely understand why the elitists who run the joint may wish to die for their perverse and hateful principles.
But the donors? The sponsors? Why do they put up with this?
For the record, PricewaterhouseCoopers is the money behind "An Act of God." Appropriate punishment would be free tickets to the play for all partners, followed by a come-to-Jesus meeting between management and the partner who selected this miserable play for the firm's outreach to potential Houston customers.
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Quick notes to Mr. Donahoo:
First, nice point about weeding out the audience. It's true and it's obvious, it needed to be said, but who before bothered to say it? Now you did. Thanks.
Second, you might start looking for a new job. You write for a newspaper whose management largely agrees with the management of the Alley about the need to prune away traditional and conservative ideas and values and substitute the doubleplusgood ideas and values of modern progressivism.
Third, neither is it the function of the Alley to treat our cultural wounds. We should not be asked to attend plays for therapy of any kind. The old stand-bys -- entertainment and enlightenment -- are quite enough, thank you very much.