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Plumbing The Unholy Hoopla Of The Pope's Visit

September 12, 1987|DAN SULLIVAN | Times Theater Critic

Pope John Paul II's visit to the United States has inspired a play--what Shaw would have called a comedietta .

Andrew Delaplaine's "A Matter of State" is a satirical one-act in which advance men from the White House and the Vatican work out a delicate issue--whether the Pope or the Reagans will be given the suite with the bathroom at the Villa Vizcaya in Miami, where they are to meet (and did on Thursday).

Delaplaine was inspired by a report in Miami Magazine that such negotiations were actually held this summer, but his play (in which the Pope himself doesn't appear) is entirely imagined.

"It's a gentle satire, but I hope not too gentle," Delaplaine said over the phone Friday from Miami. "It's about the incredible trivialization and hoopla that surround these visits. The Pope may talk about important issues when he comes here, but nobody else does.

"Do you realize they welded down the manhole covers on his parade route in Miami? I think he should have come in a day early by cab."

Delaplaine, an Episcopalian, had hoped to get a production of his play in every city on the Pope's tour, but so far the only theater to give it a try is San Francisco's Playwrights Center, where it had a staged reading Friday night.

"We've been having a lot of fun with it," said director Mona Scheyer. "It's amazingly like what's going on."

IN QUOTES. Karol Wojtyla, in "The Collected Plays and Writings on Theatre" (University of California Press, $35): "Drama fulfills its social function not so much by demonstrating action as by demonstrating it slowed down."

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