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March 7, 2014
Review: Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity
Ben Abbott in "Questions of the Heart". Photo by Jason Bechtel.

“Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Search for Identity”, an hour long show written and performed by Ben Abbott and directed by Mark Kamie, has all the elements that make a show worth seeing: an engaging opening, thought-provoking material and such a warm and genuine delivery by Abbott that you are alert and compelled to lean in throughout the entire show.

The play centers around Ben, a straight Mormon guy caught between his Mormon faith and his many close gay friends as he tries to understand the intersection between religious doctrine and homosexuality. Abbott’s well written show beautifully lays out the complexities of those who are Mormon and gay. With statements like “How does arguing over the finer points of Mormon doctrine help out the 14 year old boy who realizes he is gay and he’s afraid?” he exposes the complex relationship between religious dogma and lifestyles that don’t “fit” with declarations like “We have to find a way to make room at the table for the ‘other’”; he also discloses “the feelings of isolated agony” associated with being rejected by the Ward, or Mormon congregation.

With diplomacy and great sensitivity, Abbott’s “Question’s of the Heart” is jam-packed with subtopics that are at the forefront of American culture right now: homosexuals and basketball, mixed-orientation marriages, the high suicide rate amongst homosexuals, and so much more. Not only do those who know nothing about the Mormon faith learn about the law of chastity and the work of Carol Lynn Pearson (a Mormon poet who married a gay man who later died of HIV in her arms) and get to hear beautiful, traditional Mormon hymns; the audience is also given an opportunity to potentially shift their paradigm about the relationships between religion and sexuality that are not considered the norm.

Ben Abbott in "Questions of the Heart". Photo by Jason Bechtel.

Under the direction of Kamie, “Questions of the Heart” presents what could be perceived as controversial material in such a well thought out way that you leave the theater having compassion and empathy for both sides of the spectrum as it applies to homosexuality and Mormon doctrine. The small size of St. Mark’s Theater coupled with the detail-oriented use of lighting and the beautiful Mormon hymns playing in the background make for a very warm, intimate and enjoyable experience. Abbott’s portrayal of the many characters in this body of work is quirky, comical, compassionate, deliberate and dogmatic all at once. Though at times his nervousness is apparent, the delivery is engaging nonetheless.  It's a mind-tugging, well written one-man show.

“Questions of the Heart” is a part of the FRIGID New York Festival, which continues through March 9. Patrons receive a $2 discount if you are a senior or a student. If you are Mormon and gay, you receive a $3 discount.

Through Mar. 8 at UNDER St. Marks.

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Written by: Lynnette Nicholas
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