Anita Bryant Died for Your Sins

The title of Brian Christopher Williams' play suggests a slick, sassy gay comedy, and so it is — but it is much more than that, something far richer. Growing up during the Nixon era, deeply closeted 11-year-old gay boy Horace (a terrific Wyatt Fenner) develops a monstrous crush on his hunky gym teacher (Nick Ballard). Horace and his family weather the Vietnam War, and big brother Chaz (Nick Niven) flees to Canada to escape the draft. In the recession of the 1970s, Dad (Tony Pandolfo) has economic reverses, and Mom (Jan Sheldrick) loses her job. And when Anita Bryant (Madelynn Fattibene) launches her militant campaign against gay rights, Horace learns that there are people who will hate him for who he is. He must come out to his loving but irascible parents, and he’s overcome by jealousy when he realizes his adored teacher is having an affair with a neighbor (Sara J. Stuckey). He retaliates by betraying the teacher, in a way he knows is shameful. Williams' play becomes a funny and touching family saga, as well as the tale of a bright gay kid striving to grow up. Richard Israel provides wonderfully nuanced direction, and the entire cast is splendid. West Coast Ensemble, El Centro Theatre, 800 N. El Centro Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through October 4. (323) 460-4443 or tix.com.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Aug. 21. Continues through Nov. 1, 2009