You wouldn’t think of Scott Goldman, principal of Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter Public School, or Chris Rohmann, theater director and critic (full disclosure: he writes the Advocate’s Stage Struck column), as the types to ignite a firestorm.
But that’s exactly what the two rather earnest, scholarly men found themselves in the middle of last week when Rohmann was about to stage PVPA’s production of The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told.
“Blasphemous” was the word protesters, many apparently weighing in from outside Massachusetts, used to describe the play, which is an over-the-top reconstruction of the Bible. In it the First Couple are not Adam and Eve, but Adam and Steve, and a pharoah is a drag queen—and that’s only the beginning.
The story about the protest—which will remind many in the Valley of the nationally reported hue and cry when Amherst Regional High School staged what was believed to be the first high school performance of The Vagina Monologues in 2004—even hit Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). People from the Christian right begged Goldman to cancel the production, but he refused to capitulate.
Rohmann declined to comment on the fracas last Wednesday, two days before the scheduled opening of the play, but offered these comments from a press release he’d written before all hell broke loose: “I would not have suggested this show for PVPA–or anywhere else–if I thought it was about trashing religion or mocking belief. To me, it’s quite the opposite... The central characters’ journeys are defined by their search for the meaning of faith and the presence of God.”
So say reviewers in venues such as Boston and New York. One is Michael Bettencourt, who wrote in a glowing review of the piece on Theatermania, “...the ‘story’ of the play has a quite traditional feel to it: In the end, only love and family (and possibly some nod to a divine power) can provide any kind of shelter against the bombardments of existence.”•