Homosexuality is a sensitive issue everywhere in the United States right now, but perhaps nowhere else is the tension so high as it is with the LDS Church. In an attempt to take a stance backing a religious conviction, the general public has largely misinterpreted Mormonism’s complicated relationship with the subject of homosexuality. While the Church characteristically handles its response to criticism on a broad, public level, perhaps art has a better chance of helping those unfamiliar with the church understand the complicated issue of homosexuality from the perspective of someone within the church trying to understand their own attraction to the same sex. Melissa Leilani Larson’s short play “Happy Little Secrets” humanizes the conflict and sheds light on a culture that is largely misunderstood.
In a previous review of Larson’s play, the critic remarked, “You make homosexuality not an ISSUE (with all its inevitable dangers) but a subject--a reason for authentic art, not a pretext for divisive politics.” Homosexuality is the backdrop of this analysis of a girl’s struggle to reason with her religious beliefs and her contrary sexual nature. The play becomes a platform on which a good person struggles with being misunderstood within a culture that does not know how to address a sensitive issue while holding to its religious convictions. So it does what good art always tries to do: humanize an issue that is hard to understand from the perspective of someone who does not understand their own situation perfectly.
While this play was valiant in its efforts and commendable for the content it humanizes, the language and feelings often feel cheap and adolescent. More than a look inside the mind of a conflicted young women, it became a commentary on the issues the author had with the culture of Brigham Young University, For example, when Claire, the main character struggling with homosexual attraction to her best friend, agrees to look over her friend’s boyfriend’s paper, she exclaims, “Sorry there is bile in my mouth right now.” Maybe the intent is to further humanize the characters by expressing their imperfect emotions, opinions, and personalities, but it feels a little shallow at times. While the play itself is interesting in its depiction of the conflict within a Mormon context, the delivery lacks in power and conviction.