Award-winning play brings insight to Topeka community

Christina, played by Jen Mays, performs during “Visions of Right” in Topeka. Despite including a character who moves to Topeka, this is only the second time the play has come to the capital city.

Ryan Hodges / Washburn Review

The Rev. Fred Phelps calls it, “a blasphemous, defamatory attack on Christianity… a fag-enabling play,” and Topeka playwright Marcia Cebulska should consider that to be a profound compliment for her work, “Visions of Right.”

Sponsored by Washburn’s Center for Kansas Studies, the Gay-Straight Legal Alliance of the Washburn University School of Law and several other campus departments, the Sept. 29 reading of “Visions of Right” marked only the second time that the play had been performed in Topeka.

Produced by Martin Tanner Productions, the piece has won several awards, including  the Dorothy Silver Award and the Stage Three Festival of New Plays Award.

“Visions” takes the audience into the world of art photographer Christina (actress Jen Mays), her  husband Oscar (Matt Rappaport) and her best friend Larry (Charles Fugate).

After becoming the innocent victim of a Neo-Nazi hate crime in New York City that left another individual dead, Christina finds herself scarred, both physically and emotionally, and decides to move to Topeka with her husband to escape the aftermath of the traumatic event.

Soon after arriving in Topeka, Christina finds herself in a confrontation with the Rev. Noah (actor Paul E. Ordwick), a thinly-veiled characture of Topeka’s own Rev. Fred Phelps. Noah, much like Phelps in real life, is protesting an exhibit of Christina’s photography simply because her friend, whose gallery hosted her work, is gay and her husband happens to be Jewish.

The conflict, which soon expands to personal and professional attacks on both Oscar and Larry, rattles Christina to the point that, following a trip to the Auschwitz museum, she begins to see Noah as her personal substitute for Hitler.

Haunted by that notion, Christina confronts Noah, pulling a gun on him. But instead of shooting him, she strikes up a conversation with him and begins to feel not anger, but pity, for Noah.

On more than one occasion, Christina comments that “the last bath in a photo lab is water,” and it feels as though she herself is looking for some measure of salvation for her perceived sins. What happens when we become the hatred we fight so hard to overcome?

Following the performance, playwright Marcia Cebulska said, “I don’t think he [Phelps] is Hitler, but we need to think about whether someone is litereally doing some harm to people or whether they influence others with the words they stand for.”