MacLeod first became widely known for her perky farce The House of Yes, a self-styled “suburban Jacobean tragedy” that blended incest and an obsession with John F. Kennedy‘s assassination. (It received its commercial premiere at San Francisco’s Magic Theater in 1990, before moving to L.A.‘s Las Palmas.) That Yes’ heady humor was no fluke was proved by MacLeod‘s wickedly humorous and intelligent stage debate about abortion, The Water Children (seen here at the Matrix in 1998, after premiering in New York the year before). Sin is the least satisfying MacLeod work I’ve seen, although I missed Apocalyptic Butterflies when it came to the Zephyr just after The House of Yes‘ arrival.
Sin’s lack of Hogarthian sweep may ultimately be less a problem of dramaturgy than of paradigmatic shifts in morality. What Europe in the Middle Ages regarded as deadly sins, we merely consider the behavioral brickwork of everyday life; when Avery‘s brother acts flighty and expresses concerns for his appearance, we shrug, “Isn’t he just being a gay stage character?” It‘s really a bit of a stretch to label Michael’s alcoholism “sloth,” just as it is to call Gerard‘s garden-variety vanity “pride.” And while this particular “sin” may indeed precede a fall, and was considered a high crime in, say, the time of Ethelred the Unready, today pride barely rates a fix-it ticket.
In the same vein, the “wrath” displayed by Jason comes off more as the outburst of someone who’s skipped his Prozac this week than genuine anger, and Fred‘s pouty outburst over being passed over for promotion doesn’t appear to be as grounded in material “envy” as it is in simple frustration. I could go on, but it would only be to suggest, as MacLeod‘s play unwittingly does, that yesterday’s sins are today‘s vaguely bad manners.