If you read my post yesterday, you know that my husband and I went to see our son, Andrew's, play at SMU. The play is "In Arabia We'd All Be Kings by Stephen Adly Guirgis. This is a hard-hitting play set on the streets of New York City in the late 1990s. There's massive amounts of profanity and explicitly sexual dialogue in this play not to mention smoking, drinking, and guns (fake, of course). According to my son, in every performance there have been walkouts, although in SMU's defense there is a Caution sign in plain view at the stage door. People were warned!!
I knew the play was going to be chock full of "in your face", shocking dialogue. Andrew has been preparing me, or should I say my ears for months to receive the verbal nuclear blast. After several of my other adult children saw the play, they too warned my husband and me. So, while I was totally prepared for the worst the theater could spew at me, I was not prepared to leave believing this was the most life-changing, important play I had ever seen. Today I am grateful for having witnessed the raw viseral tragedy that In Arabia We'd All Be Kings offers.
In Arabia We'd All Be Kings centers around eight or so characters that hang around a sad disgusting bar on a seedy New York City street. Prostitution, homelessness, drug addiction, and the criminal element are all represented in the ensemble cast. My son, Andrew, plays the character Skank. Skank is a homeless addict. Skank is not his real name, but one that a low-life prison con gives him at the beginning of the play. The audience never learns Skank's real name because ultimately, Skank is a nothing to everyone except his girlfriend, a prostitute named Chickie. Ironically, even if Chickie does know Skank's real name, she never calls him anything but "my boyfriend". Skank and Chickie are tender and respectful of each other. They are two souls comforting each other while lost in an abyss of depravity.
Without the painfully biting dialogue, this play would have been a cartoon version and ultimately a mockery and insult to everyone who is down and out in America. Certainly, not everyone who finds themselves homeless or addicted has reached the hell of Skank and his sick companions, but the play's dialogue serves to immerse the viewer into the "worst of the worst" with the result, hopefully, being an epiphany and committment to reserve judgement when encountering the poor miserable souls that have become America's garbage. At the close of the curtain, I found myself liking many of the characters. They were not intentionally mean or depraved......they were only terribly broken people that had made bad choices and were unable to save themselves. Possibly, one reason I so identified with Skank was because my son played his character. I would like to hope that had someone else played that role, I still would have had a similar connection. But, watching Andrew being homeless and addicted made me realize that every addict and homeless person has a mother......out there, somewhere! How hard it must be for them to witness their own children fall into the hopelessness of a Dante's Inferno.
After viewing this play, I have been changed. I'll never be able to look at a homeless person, addict, or prostitute without compassion. As a Christian, I realized that if Jesus were here today, He would be there with the Skanks of this world. And, while I am not Jesus, if I call myself a Christian, I represent Him. I'm still working this through in my mind. But for now, thank you SMU theater department for the courage to showcase In Arabia We'd All Be Kings. This play changed me.....prayerfully for the better!