COMING OUT was originally produced at The Abbey Theater of Dublin, in Dublin, Ohio, October 4-
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On a pleasant autumn afternoon in 2012, just off the campus of a small, central Ohio liberal arts college, Professor Bob Anderson arrives home to find Susan, his wife of 40 years, waiting for him. They are celebrating their anniversary this day, and their three children are expected to arrive shortly. Anticipating the arrival of his eldest son, James, Bob immediately heads for the bar. The Oxford educated philosophy professor has never believed in any sort of supernatural powers; his son is pastor of a 6,000 family fundamentalist mega-
Brenda Newsom, as Professor Susan Anderson, makes her point at the climax of Act I, while her family looks on, in the original Dublin, Ohio production of COMING OUT at The Abbey Theater of Dublin, October 2013. (Photo: Colleen Dunne)
Not surprisingly, their opinions frequently differ. Bob tends to think his son is a little crazy, and James thinks his father is going to hell if he doesn’t change. Susan, who has a PhD in English Literature, and teaches at the same college as her husband, hits the bottle as well. She isn’t particularly religious, and her ideas of an afterlife mostly seem to involve hanging around heaven with a young Warren Beatty, rather than joining a heavenly choir, but that is apparently enough for James. Her son doesn’t nag her the way he does his father. Still, she knows that father and son will inevitably start arguing, and figures some alcohol will make it all a little more bearable.
When James and his wife arrive, the arguing soon starts. Despite their theological and philosophical differences, the debates tend to remain more or less cordial. It’s all old territory for these two.
Soon they’re interrupted by the arrival of the Andersons’ daughter, Ellen, and her physician husband, Mark Winston. Then their younger son, George, arrives with his roommate, Eric Simpson. When George and Eric reveal their plan to move to New York and be married, any debates between Bob and James suddenly seem very minor indeed.
James becomes extremely vocal, reminding his younger brother that he used to be the captain of his high school football team, and even used to date cheerleaders. To which George responds that he also dated one of the tackles. Bob and Susan try to keep things together, but can’t help wondering how it is that James seems to be the only family member who never realized George was gay. Eventually the yelling drives the parents out onto the front porch for a discussion of feuding siblings, ED medication, and whether they drink too much or not enough. When they return to the living room, at least in part because that’s where the liquor is, not much has changed. And just about the time it seems things couldn’t get any worse, Bob’s secretary, Carol, arrives with the news that she’s pregnant and Bob is the father.
And that’s just in the first act.
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