(1) Religion; (2) His Imperial Highness, the Shah; and (3) Women’s Liberation.”
To make sure we took the situation seriously, he gave an example of a young American faculty member at Pahlavi University, the Oxford of Iran. “Last year, a student asked him about SAVAK,” and here Mr. Tajali lowered his voice—after all, SAVAK was the feared secret police that controlled everything—“and the new professor did not know that every class has at least one informant .” He paused. “And the young American talked openly about that taboo subject.” We looked shocked, but grateful for the information—an informant in every class room! “The American lucked out,” Mr. Tajali assured us. “He was not sent to jail.” We all sighed with relief. “He was given 24 hours to leave the country.” We were shocked.
The controversial drama starts out as an entertaining, almost cartoonish play and had the audience in stitches. And then it hit hard. As a full professor (tenured 'n all) who taught at four universities and one college in the US, and who served on numerous committees—a world ruled by PC (political correctness)—I realized quickly that THE SUBMISSION is one of the few American plays that tackles taboo subjects like racism, homophobia, and selfishness with a brutal volley of insults, with “Fag” and “Nigger” being spit in each other’s face like a slimy hock a loogie. Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Edward Albee come to mind. In a way, Talbott’s verbal fights in THE SUBMISSION could be seen as an offspring of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf, at least when it comes to blatant racism and homophobia.
Michael Kelly, in his Phindie review, puts his finger right on it: The play "delivers a galvanizing punch to the head, activating the brain, and reaching for something well beyond a stereotype. [. . .] THE SUBMISSION unashamedly takes such matters dead in its sights and blows them wide open. It doesn’t necessarily put them back together, but hopefully will serve as a good starting point on the long road to healing the dangerous assumptions we are capable of carrying inside of us—it certainly has for me.”
It was afterwards that I realized that the taboo breaking in THE SUBMISSION, however cardboard-ish it might appear in parts, was the dramatic equivalent to a surgeon opening up a brain, or at least looking at it via an MRI. And what we saw was a slice of our subconscious that we might not know about and certainly would have trouble to acknowledge.
If you can’t make either of those productions, you can still laugh and cringe and cry and look at yourself and the world differently, when reading the script from Samuel French, the oldest and most respected script publishing company in Britain and the US.
*This article was originally published by Theatre World Internet Magazine in London, UK.