Theater Preview: Straight at Utah Rep

The folks at Utah Repertory will be triumphantly mounting the regional premiere of Straight, an off-Broadway play about a seemingly straight guy who isn’t. In these days that seems like pretty tame stuff, really. But last fall, this particular play’s subject matter and prior productions from Utah Rep (like this killer rendition of Kiss of the Spider Woman) came under scrutiny from the administrators of Sorensen Unity Center, a Salt Lake City facility, seemingly over the content of the material they were staging in the center’s small performance space.

The matter was settled with some vague hemming and hawing from the Biskupski Administration and apparently all is well because Straight is opening this weekend at Sorensen. Back to that plot.

Meet Ben. Ben is a 26-year-old investment banker. Ben likes beer, sports, and Emily. And Chris who is presumably a dude. Straight deals with fidelity, sexuality and identity in “post-equality” America. Funny, sad, sexy and surprising, this three-character drama takes a hard look at the moral complex of a generation that prides itself on the pretense of acceptance.

I know, right? This ruffled feathers? I mean are we even putting quote marks around “post-equality” anymore? Regardless, its good to see that the show is going on. Utah Rep is a small, lovely company that does work that would not likely be produced in Utah.

“Something like Straight would normally never be done in Utah,” says Director JC Carter echoing my sentiments exactly. “Or it would take years for someone to be brave enough to produce it. I know the Hale Centre Theatre Sandy would never touch it.”

Thanks for pointing that out JC. I’ll go a step further. Last year, the Hale opened its new aircraft carrier of a performing arts facility thanks to a $42 Million bond from the City of Sandy and a last-minute benevolence from the Salt Lake County Council to close a 4.7 million funding gap.

Meanwhile, Utah Rep, a teeny company with barely a spot light to piss in, gets into a scuffle to justify doing “a gay play” in a public space. A public space that you may remember was created as an olive branch to civil libertarians in the fight over the LDS Church’s restrictive Main Street Plaza.

It is important that they exist and that it be widely understood that administrators of publicly funded spaces like the Sorensen cannot dictate what happens in the public spaces they rent to, you know, the public. If it’s not hazardous, invited audiences are told what to expect (even that is just being polite) and the exits are clearly marked, tenants like Utah Rep should be able to stand on the stage and make armpit farts for an hour if they want to. You don’t have to like it, you don’t have to go  but you can’t tell them not to do it.

Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh
Jeremy Pugh is Salt Lake magazine's Editor. He covers culture, history, the outdoors and whatever needs a look. Jeremy is also the author of the book "100 Things to Do in Salt Lake City Before You Die" and the co-author of the history, culture and urban legend guidebook "Secret Salt Lake."

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