Theater: Jesus Christ Superstar?

Terrence McNally's controversial play about a gay Messiah finally debuts. What's all the fuss?

New York theatergoers rarely feel so important. Those attending last week's first performance of Terrence McNally's play Corpus Christi were greeted by a couple hundred chanting demonstrators and a few berobed Franciscan friars handing out protest leaflets. Once inside the theater, the crowd had to pass through an airport-style metal detector as a security precaution. Not a single star or supermodel was there, but it made the local news.

When word leaked out last spring that off-Broadway's Manhattan Theatre Club was planning to stage a play in which Jesus and his apostles are portrayed as modern-day gay men, Catholic groups...