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Spotlight San Diego Arts

Theater

February 17, 1988|NANCY CHURNIN

Those going to see Robert Chesley's "Jerker" at the Sushi Performance Gallery Thursday through Sunday won't just be seeing a play. They'll also witness the cause of the biggest Federal Communications Commission uproar over obscenity since comedian George Carlin used his "seven dirty words" routine on the radio.

It all started when KPFK-FM in Los Angeles broadcast excerpts from "Jerker" on April 27, 1987, and complaints by an evangelical minister, the Rev. Larry Poland, led the FCC to warn the station that it could lose its license because of the sexually explicit language in the play's re-creation of a telephone sex-fantasy dialogue between two gay lovers.

That led Poland to declare in a press release: "This is a great day for believers all across the nation! Finally those of us who have been screaming for relief from an increasing flood of 'porno broadcasting' have been heard!"

Poland was not as pleased in July, however, when the Justice Department announced that it would not prosecute KPFK for playing "Jerker." But it was good news for Chesley, for whom "Jerker" fits his sense, as described in an August interview in The Times, that he has a "calling to spread the word about sex, whether it be defined as indecent, obscene or sublime."

The Los Angeles debut of "Jerker," under the direction of Michael Kearns, marked the first time Chesley (whose only previously produced play was "Night Sweat") received a significantly larger audience for his work. Kearns will be acting in the play at Sushi as well as directing.

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