Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Signs, Rants Familar in WBC-Inspired Play

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Signs, Rants Familar in WBC-Inspired Play

Article excerpt

The picket signs carried by the Rev. Noah Jones, pastor of Zion Primitive Baptist Church, and his vitriolic rants against Jews, gays and others he says God hates might seem familiar to audiences seeing the character in the world premiere production of Marcia Cebulska's play, "Visions of Right," the Ad Astra Theatre Ensemble is staging through Friday at Warehouse 414.

That is because Cebulska, a local playwright who has earned national awards, based Jones on the late Fred Phelps Sr. and the message he preached here and across the country as leader of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church.

Development of the play, which will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Warehouse 414, 414 S.E. 2nd, involved Cebulska attending a Westboro Baptist Church service, and she weaves what she observes into the story that revolves around a Topeka-born photographer, Christina Romanek (Jesyca W. Rodenberg), who moves back to her hometown from New York City after she is accidentally wounded by gunfire from a neo-Nazi skinhead.

Her Jewish husband, ophthalmologist Oscar "Oz" Singer (Matt Briden), moves to Topeka with her and gets a job with the Menninger Clinic, where he is researching mood-altering eye wear -- sort of real "rose-colored glasses" or as Oz says in the play, "Prozac for the eyes."

Since the New York attack, the couple's relationship is strained. She has even grown distant from her gay best friend, New York City gallery owner Larry Uffizi (Craig Fisher), who comes to Topeka to attend the opening of Christina's photography exhibit at the Mulvane Art Museum.

Attacks by Jones (Scott Kickhaefer) on Oz and Larry, and her reaction to stumbling across the Auschwitz concentration camp on a trip to Poland and seeing in its museum a photo of a prisoner with her name, act to inspire the photographer to go to Jones' church to shoot him, but with what? …

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