(l to r) Horace Poole (Michael Doppe) has allowed Jake Spencer (Corey Tallman) into his tree house to share a beer in a dramatic moment in Act 2 of Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins at NCTC.

ANITA BRYANT DIED FOR YOUR SINS By Brian Christopher Williams, directed by Dennis Lickteig. New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) (Decker Theatre) located at 25 Van Ness Ave. at Market St. in San Francisco, 94102. NCTC Box Office (415) 861 8972, or online at New Conservatory Theatre Center (Decker Theatre) located at 25 Van Ness Ave. at Market St. in San Francisco, 94102.


Southern Baptist mentality returns to the New Conservatory Decker stage. Last time it involved a Southern redneck family in Del Shore’s powerful Southern Baptist Sissies. This time it arrives in the mouth and heart of Anita Bryant who, in 1977, parlayed her beauty and popularity into a crusade against homosexuality and campaigned to repeal a Dade County, Florida ordinance that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. In Brian Christopher Williams’ well constructed but overly long play Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins there are no rednecks just a good old, hardworking American family in Up-State New York with a coming age story of young Horace Poore with homosexual proclivities.

It is a pleasure to see a play where all the characters are well cast, with excellent direction (Dennis Lickteig) bringing the story to life on Kuo-Hao Lo’s impressive integral multi-area set. The protagonist/narrator is young Horace Poore ((Michael Doppe) living with mother Etta Poore (Marie O’Donnell), father Myron (Harry Breaux) and older brother Chaz (Justin Dupuis) in the Adirondacks. Even in his early years Horace feels he is not like other boys and when he sees the gleaming body TV images of Olympic champion swimmer Mark Spitz he concludes that he is, but cannot speak the name. . . homo. . . sexual.

Michael Doppe, a graduate of the award winning Solano College Theatre School (SCT), who is on stage for most of the play, demonstrates great acting skill as he matures from pre to post-pubescent years. His charm radiates across the footlights as he moves frequently from his sanctuary tree house to the real world. The story starts in the 1960s ending in the 70s and the family suffers through recession, job loss and the ignominy of older son Chaze moving to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War. Justin Dupuis, another SCT graduate, is excellent in his role as Chaz vacillating between strength, remorse and understanding.

Marie O’Donnell as the acerbic mother and Harry Breaux as the father who love their family and overcome adversity could not give better performances. Cory Tallman, in the underwritten part of Jake Spencer, Horace’s physical education teacher, with his Mark Spitz body exudes sexuality when he assures young Horace, that under his tutelage “you will be snapping towels with the rest of the pack.”

Homosexual bias enters Horace’s life in the form of Anita Bryant, and Reverend Jerry Falwell and their “Save the Children” vitriolic diatribes. When on a national television broadcast Anita ascertains that all homosexuals are recruiters, Horace explodes “I want to be a recruiter” the entire audience explodes with laughter. There is a great deal of intentional and unintentional humor in the play that softens the two hour and twenty minute running time. Much of the humor is provided by Jeffrey Biddle and Lauren Rosi who play multiple characters, including Anita and Falwell. Mary Kidwell as the retarded neighbor is excellent in her non-speaking role.

You will find many similarities of problems that face the on-stage family in the 60s and 70s that still exist in the 21st century. It is an upbeat show and I highly recommend it.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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