A new voice emerges at The Black Box Theatre during this year’s KC Fringe Festival as Joshua Kauffman unveils his first play, “And Jesus Wept,” a two-man play that focuses on emotional strife among the LGBTQ lines.
Kauffman tells the story of a young man dealing with the emotional baggage causes by a Bible-toting preacher who does not accept his son’s sexuality. The father refuses to accept and love his gay son and as a last resort throws him out of the house, disowning him and his lifestyle.
To be sure the young, troubled man knows the Bible and can quote the teachings of Jesus. He knows the tone and meaning of the holy book, and yet, his father cannot grasp the notion of universal love for others who fall beyond his boundaries of acceptance.
Confusion ensues as the son knows and understands the teachings of the Bible as does a stranger who happens by, sits and listens to his lamentations. On a park bench, the story, filled with pain and heartache is released.
“After coming out as gay to his parents, Daniel receives a notice of immediate eviction from his enraged father, a Baptist preacher. The young college student flees to a dark and deserted city park to reflect on his options. As he ponders whether his life is worth living, he is joined unexpectedly by a kind stranger who urges him to consider the value of his life and return home to reconcile with his father. That night, Daniel will face the most difficult decision anyone could ever have to make.” (KC Fringe)
Joshua Barner portrays Daniel the troubled son, and Matthew Kelso plays the unknown stranger who listens. From up-above (in the control booth) author and director Jeremiah Kauffman voices the father.
“And Jesus Wept” shows some definite talent in the raw form. The playwright has a strong message to deliver and uses his voice for the LGBT community to foster awareness that life is not always a matter of choice. The theme considers the devastation that non-conformity causes to others–even if not haters. Kauffman shows that LGBTQ persons can innocently hurt others who do not understand their individuality. His message of honoring everyone and harming no one is central to the piece, but needs nuance.
As for the two actors, both show promise but their talent remains raw. “And Jesus Wept” does not allow them to really do a lot of acting, but it gives them exposure. They need to know how to finesse their lines, hands, and movement. They both know and recite their lines well, but the piece needs to more performance based than recitation. The piece is difficult in that one actor remains sitting and stationary for the entirety of the piece. That creates problems in that he has no movement to help with his dialogue. The other actor only has two movements (he walks in and he walks out). His character is reactive and absorber of the dialogue He needs more to do to keep the audience engaged. With the play’s situation, his character has no depth or chance to develop or change.
On the night of the review, the bench was not correctly placed for lighting and the central character was not well-lit. A small adjustment of the bench corrects that. Sound was a bit too loud, but it is hard to preset in an empty room with fans running. That, too, is a minor adjustment. Neither diminishes from the overall message of the piece.
The piece uses ultra-strong language, so it is not recommended for children. The piece is definitely a drama and leans on Christian values and people’s employment of those teachings. Members of the LGBTQ and their families/friends may identify with some aspects of “And Jesus Wept.”
Tags: “And Jesus Wept” review, Black Box Theatre, Kansas City Fringe Festival, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment