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Unnatural Acts - 2011 - Off-Broadway

New York Magazine called UNNATURAL ACTS "remarkable, sleek and brutal" and said "the play offers damning lessons in power, persecution and solidarity - or lack thereof." Variety raved "UNNATURAL ACTS is riveting and fascinating" with "stunning theatricality." The Associated Press called UNNATURALS ACTS "powerfully riveting" and said "Speciale has staged this engrossing story with flair and impressive theatricality, employing a company of extremely talented actors. In a riveting series of increasingly charged vignettes, he unspools a story of prejudice, intimidation, friendship, fear and betrayal that displays the crushing effect of societally-approved homophobia." And The Daily News wrote "Speciale's production is stylish and stirring, and beautiful."

UNNATURAL ACTS is inspired by events that occurred at Harvard University in the spring of 1920, when a student's suicide sparked a campus-wide investigation by a panel of administrators who convened to investigate, expose and ultimately expel a group of homosexual students. Both intimate and epic, UNNATURAL ACTS explores themes of fear and societal intolerance that are as relevant today as they were 91 years ago.

For more than eighty years the events surrounding the incident were covered-up, until in 2002 when Amit Paley, a student journalist for The Harvard Crimson, came upon a reference to the "Secret Court" while combing university archives. After initial resistance, Harvard granted Mr. Paley access to the long-abandoned files of over 500 pages of documents describing the systematic persecution of these students. The revelation of this controversy motivated conceiver & director Speciale's own journey into the court transcripts, family correspondence, and countless records revealing the lives of these promising young men. Speciale and his team of writers (the Plastic Theatre) devoted countless hours of research and development decoding the long-hidden records from the Court, identifying witnesses and accused individuals, and piecing together a timeline of events and experiences. Through meticulous research, study and improvisation, UNNATURAL ACTS emerged.


by Ben Peltz - June 26, 2011
On a weekend when New Yorkers who favor marriage rights for gay couples are celebrating an important victory, Classic Stage Company's Unnatural Acts is a sobering dramatization of a shameful episode involving a Joseph McCarthy-type gay witch hunt from nearly a century ago that was only recently uncovered.