Written by Jordan Seavey
Directed by Mike Donahue
Labyrinth Theatre company
November 25, 2016
💉💉💉 out of 5.
I have walked into many, many theatre and have seen directors play with small and big spaces, with water and light, with benches and bleachers, with rocking chairs and grass terracing. I have sat in circles and squares, been inside and outside of the playing area – – but have never walked into a theatre in this configuration. The room was VERY small – perhaps only 300 square feet. There were raw wood platforms haphazardly placed around poles, furnace flumes and supporting walls. THERE WAS NO STAGE. All that was left was an aisle that was 3” deep that jagged its way for 20’ or so. THE ENTIRE PLAY WAS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE AISLES!
This “aisle configuration” scared me a bit. Weren’t they going to be sitting in our laps, won’t they be playing literally at our feet. Wasn’t there a danger that they could accidentally or not so accidentally touch us?
This staging was proven to be such a gold mine to a story of finally finding that boyfriend in the most random of places. There, in those tiny spaces, the characters worked through the passion and fights in spaces no bigger then they could afford as a young couple in the Big Apple. After all, aren’t most of our richest encounters set in the corridors, hallways, and alleys of our life. How often do the bit moments in our life happen so conveniently and spaciously on the couch, centered in our well balanced living room. The aisles and corridors are where it all happens.
In this play our young lovers subtly encourage us, the audience, to move our feet so that they can play a bedroom scene on the floor at our feet. Characters sit tucked right next to our feet to flirt with someone four feet away sitting right next to another audience member. We were not eavesdropping on this affair. It was happening well within our ability to touch and smell it. Actors did NOT need to project. We were right there moving our arms and legs out of the way to create room for them to unfold the story.
I loved this directorial vision! I was much less impressed by the play. It was a first love story of some twenty something gay New Yorkers – told rather predicably against chronological order. They flirted, loved, fought, cheated and apologized – – all in a predictable fashion. The physical experiment of sitting in the lap of the audience did come with its own challenges – – you just just feel those moments when actors pushed even the slightest. False acting just screamed in this space. Although the play was joyfully camp – at times I registered an indicating or playing for the audience that felt artificial.
The play also felt compelled to place this relationship in context to gay politics for the last 20 years as the “right to marry” propositions caught fire in America. Why did they need to get all historical on us? Gay history made sense in Angels in America – it was totally unnecessary here. Not to give too much away the play did deal with gay bashing. They made their point about this senseless hate crime – but why couldn’t they just let this be a sweet love story?