Max Berry, Contributing Critic - New York City
Taking us back to those uncomfortable holiday dinners, this new play by Gabi and Eva Mor, tells the story of homophobic, racist, and all around bigoted, Jim. Jim’s narrow views and downright offensive language make him a very hard person to be around. Even his own son, Seth (played by Dana Watkins) is exhausted with trying to get his father to understand just what is wrong with some of the things he says. Yet, with his father’s health waning and Seth the only one to take care of him, he hopes that he can use his time with his father to try and open his mind a little. Seth, along with the help of Jim’s next door neighbors, Paula and Aysha,(Played by Jaimi Paige and Faiven Feshazion) whose romantic relationship Jim has expressed extreme distaste for, attempt to open up Jim’s eyes to a world beyond his narrow understanding.
While many scenes in “The Bigot” contain language that is uncomfortable and hard to listen to, the portrayal of Jim is unflinching and unfortunately, very familiar. Gabi and Eva Mor managed to find the sweet spot of the character. He wasn’t exaggerated to the point of being unbelievable but the playwrights also did not shy away from portraying some truly despicable behavior, perfectly highlighting how absurd and hateful views of the Jims of the world are. Stephen Payne navigated all of this spectacularly. In a role that could very easily be played very one note, he brought depth and made we as the audience hope that Seth, Paula, and Aysha would be able to get him to budge, even if it’s hardly an inch.
The first ten minutes of the script did feel very exposition heavy. Most of the lines were just characters explaining things about themselves to the other characters and felt rather forced. I would have like to have seen a little more show and a little less tell in those opening scenes. This was especially prominent the first time we meet Paula and Aysha. We are told everything about their relationship and how in love they are before we ever get to see them be in love. This doesn’t last long, however, and once the play gets this out of it’s system, the story takes over. And once it takes over, it really takes over.
“The Bigot” asks a lot of questions that are ever present in today's society. Questions about if family can survive bigotry and can people with such narrow views really change, and even if they can, should we even try to reach out? To teach? Or are some people just too far gone? We aren’t really given any answers, and that is what is so brilliant about this play. We understand why Aysha wouldn’t want to help Jim. We understand why Seth doesn’t have a strong relationship with his father. We wouldn’t think anything of it if they just let him be and continued being angry. Yet there is a glimmer of hope in this play, that makes us think “Maybe if we can’t completely change someone, we can at least make a little dent”, and then that dent becomes a crack, and that crack makes more cracks, and maybe, ever so slowly something changes. While Jim doesn’t make a complete one-eighty, we see a crack just large enough for Seth, Paula, and Aysha to shine a little light through. And boy does this world need a little light.
“Th Bigot” is written by Gabi and Eva Mor and directed by Michael Susko.
It features Stephen Payne, Faiven Feshazion, Jaimi Paige, and Dana Watkins.
With set design by Adam Crinson, costume design by Barbara Erin Delo, and lighting design by Daniel L. Taylor.
Stage managed by Heather Klein.
The production will run at Theatre at St. Clement's (423 West 46thStreet) April 26 – June 9.
To purchase tickets go to https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/The-Bigot/Overview