SINCERITY FOREVER, Stage Left Theatre. The press package for this production of Mac Wellman’s one-act includes the author’s dedication of the play to conservative leader Jesse Helms, “for the fine job you are doing of destroying civil liberties in These States,” as well as correspondence from the National Endowment for the Arts asking Wellman not to credit the NEA for making the work possible. (The NEA didn’t actually fund the play, though it did give Wellman a fellowship one year.) With all due respect to artists’ belief in their right to government subsidies, one can understand the NEA’s wish to distance itself from this smug, shallow lampoon of southern-style white Christian conservative cluelessness. The issue isn’t ideology but quality: Sincerity Forever simply isn’t very good.

A set of snide sketches depicts ignoramuses in Ku Klux Klan robes wrestling with silly speculations on the meaning of existence and the threat of mystic furballs, finally deciding that ignorance is OK as long as you’re sincere. One can see why actors would be attracted to Wellman’s wiseass, often raunchy take on faith versus knowledge, with its potential for broad characterizations, colorful accents, comic timing, and breath control–all of which the Stage Left cast display under Blake Lawrence’s direction. But for a work that posits the return to earth of Jesus H. Christ himself (he’s black, by the way), Sincerity Forever doesn’t have much to say.

–Albert Williams