AN IMPRESSIVE PRODUCTION OF PHILIP DAWKIN’S “THE HOMOSEXUALS”
An Impressive Production of Philip Dawkin’s “The Homosexuals”
New Conservatory Theatre Center is currently presenting an ambitious, substantial and deeply impressive new play by Philip Dawkins. Think iconic gay plays like “The Boys In the Band” and “Love!Valour!Compassion” when you see this production. This is the story of a naive gay young man just in from small town Iowa in New York. He meets a series of well season gay men at a cocktail party on his first night in the big city. The story like Stephen Sondheim’s original “Merrily We Roll Along” is told in reverse chronological order. The first five scenes are two person dialogues between Evan and one of the six other characters at the party.
Dawkin’s script moves at a swift pace and his scenes are long enough that the characters are giving sufficient time to establish their personalities. “The Homosexuals” opens in 2010 as Evan (Robert Ruskin) is about break up with Peter, an older and bombastic theatre queen. Peter evens open the play by saying “What a disaster: Catherine Zeta-Jones winning the Tony Award”. This is one of the best scenes in this fast pace drama. Matt Weiner is outstanding in the role of the flamboyant drama queen. “The Homosexuals” then moves backward, two years in time. Evan is now living with HIV British Mark played strikingly by Daniel Redmond. This scene quickly intensifies into a burst of sexual activity that comes to a sudden halt. They then comfort each other since both are a “top”.
The strongest scene then follows at the end of acts one when hospital bed-ridden Evan who has had his appendix removed has a meeting with nerdy Michael played splendidly by Gabriel Ross. Michael is the only male character of the production with no sexual relationship with the others. Gabriel Ross brings a flawless, difficult energy of the character that is charming. Even when the spaced-out Evan suggests they show each other their members, a panicky Michael breaks into a lovely monologue about his childhood sexual development.
Act two opens in 2004 with female character Tam who is engaged to British Mark. Alyssa Stone gives a refreshingly good performance as the axiomatically fag-hag who shows a great deal of sympathy and wit in the problems of Evan. She is detached enough from the Evan to call him on his mistakes and with solid timing delivers some of the best lines of the play.
The scene then changes to 2002 when Evan is working in an edgy job where being gay is not fully accepted and has conformed to the heterosexual code of silence as I did when in United States Army during World War 2. He meets a macho Mark a college professor who is completely out of the closet. This is a strong scene with terrific verbal confrontations between the two men. Keith Mitchell gives a powerful performance as Mark.
The final scene takes place in 2000 where we first meet Collin who is hosting a viewing party for the 2000 Tony Awards. Unfortunately this guy is reeling from a breakup with a boyfriend earlier in the day. The scene reminds me of “Boys In the Band” where we once again meet all of the characters together. Michael has brought 21 year old Evan to the party who has just got off the bus from Iowa. He has no place to stay and you can assume that he will be staying with Collin and have his first romantic fling in the gay life. Scott Cox beautifully plays this character. This is the beginning of Evan’s reverse type journey.
Robert Rushin skillfully gives a complex picture of a young man grasping at identity in an age that’s post-stonewalled. Director Arturo Catricala accomplishes a definite, unswerving tone which brings out the comicalness in the playwright’s script.
“The Homosexuals” runs through June 28th at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-864-8972 or on line at www.nctcsf.org Also playing at the center is Buddy Thomas and Kenneth Elliott “Devil Boys and Beyond”. Coming to the Center is a replay of “Pansy” a solo play by Evan Johnson opening on June 19 and running through June 28th.