Is the Bible the literal word of God, every word or which is absolute truth, or a “self-contradictory haphazardly edited compilation” (as posited in Keith Bunin’s “The Busy World is Hushed”)? Is there anywhere in the New Testament, in the reported words of Christ, where homosexuality is condemned? And what do you do if you are a progressive member of the clergy who believes in God but doubts the accuracy of the Bible’s provenance?
Such is the philosophical fodder that underpins Bunin’s provocative play, presented next by the Idyllwild Actors Theatre. It’s a tale of a loving mother, enamored of God at the expense of time for her son, and a troubled young gay writer. The mother auditions as a ghostwriter for her book about a new gospel — a gospel older than and a possible precursor to those of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As faith and family collide, a family struggles with its history and an interloper possibly provides a key to unlock unresolved questions.
And in a time when issues of faith, fidelity and sexuality are playing out in our political processes and public discourse, Bunin’s words and his characters’ questioning of their closely held beliefs seem particularly apt.
Michèle Marsh stars as Hannah, the mother, an Episcopal priest navigating the whirlpool waters of her family and faith. Marsh, one of the Hill’s most pedigreed actors, said of playing Hannah, “It excites me; the whole topic and investigating it. I feel very, very lucky to be involved with something this meaty. It makes me look at my own faith and my own beliefs.” Marsh paraphrased one of Hannah’s lines in the play — one that characterizes Hannah’s conflicts of faith — “If I were God, I would not be worried if anyone believed in me.” In another line, Hannah says, “I want my windows clear of stain,” the obscuring film that clouds her view of God and the role the deity plays in human lives. Justin Holmes plays her son and Jacob Teel the young ghostwriter. Kathleen Walker directs.
Time Out NY said of the play, “Bunin has written wonderful roles for his actors … Rooting through the intricate tangle of motivations that undergird personal faith, he offers an empathetic and fair-minded view of religion.”
“The Busy World is Hushed” plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 8 and 9, at the Rainbow Inn. A reception at 7 p.m. precedes the presentation. “Busy World” is presented as a readers’ theater production. Tickets are $15 at the door or online at www.idyllwildactorstheatre.com. For more information, call Suzanne Avalon at 951-692-9553.