“He spent years making sure those bridges were good and burned.”
Jim is a bigot. Not a laughable, “oh, he’s so outrageous,” Archie Bunker-esque rascal, but the clear-eyed, conspiratorial type that carries hate like a cancer. His liberal son, Seth, can only stand to be around Jim for a few minutes before running to the lesbians in the apartment next door.
Paula thinks she can wear down the old man’s ignorance with kindness. Aysha, who studies geriatric medicine, counters that Jim won’t be around to hate them much longer.
Ironically, this “conversion story” has many parallels to church theatre. Seth tries to change Jim by teaching from the good book—in his case, history books—while Paula builds trust over common interests. There is a miraculous reveal, a moving sacrifice and an irrefutable metaphor. (To be clear, the play makes no mention of God. Its religion is humanism, the belief that every life deserves love.)
As Jim, Bruce Carter’s perfect diction creates a chilling effect. He spouts each hateful line with such clarity, you can’t shrug it off as flippant or exaggerated. The audience kept muttering in shock throughout his performance.
Joanne Koehler makes an irresistible Paula, from her big smile every time she enters Jim’s apartment to her flailing attempts to clean her apartment. She has a cute chemistry with Haley King’s Aysha, affectionate but still adjusting.
“The Bigot” is not a play for cynics. Director Kim Bennett compares it to a fairy tale. Frankly, we could all take a lesson from its commitment to hope, loving the unlovable and radical decency.
Haley King doesn’t get much to do as Aysha, but she makes the most of every quip, eye roll and skeptical glance.
As part of its mission, the play teaches the audience how to care for the elderly bigots in their own lives. You might not want to be responsible for them, but at a certain point you’ll have to. Topics include health proxies, phone scams, dialysis and transplant lists.
“The Bigot” features hateful opinions without the use of racial or homophobic slurs.
Funky Little Theater Co.
2109 Templeton Gap Rd
Box Office: (719) 425-9509
Playing January 19 – February 3, 2018
Admission: $19 general; $15 Thursdays
Running Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes