ELECTRICITY

ensemble theatre · tmd productions · Ages 18+ · includes nudity · United States of America

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Review by TONY FRANKEL

June 09, 2017 stage and cinema

What I liked

I enjoyed the dizzy, daffy beginning; there was a sweetness and naivete that was infectious. Examining the gay rights movement through two polar opposite men over a four-decade period in four separate scenes is a fascinating set-up.

What I didn't like

The actors are way way WAY too old to pull off their younger selves. Additionally, there was little attempt (that I could see) to even change the way they aged physically over 40 years (except for some pretty scary wigs in the first scene, some shtick about push-ups, etc.). Steven Rosenbaum, an “actor’s director” per the program, should have helped with much-needed nuance: What happens to someone’s speech and mannerisms after guzzling vodka? Apparently nothing.

(Oh, and bring a jacket — the air conditioner blows directly on the audience.)

My overall impression

There’s some decent writing from Terry Ray, but it’s seems swathed in the 1970s ethos of seriousness, slickness, funny set-ups, sentimentality, and sit-com that produced that decade’s “Same Time, Next Year” — to which comparisons can be made. As such, the play wears its heart on its sleeve.

Never once did I believe the connection, attraction or “electricity” between these two (the cast’s lack of chemistry didn’t help, with Mr. Ray playing the role he wrote for, I guess, himself). Mr. Ray had some very funny reactions, especially after trying liquor for the first time.

Whereas Bernard Slade and Neil Simon (whose plays dominated the 60s and 70s) relished in the long, funny arguments brought about by such a context, Ray goes out of his way to avoid them (the more effeminate of the two (“Gary the Fairy” in high school) voted for Reagan twice, but he tells Brad (Kevin Scott Alan, definitely fitting his role in spirit throughout) to not even broach the subject. So they don’t. This elucidates some missed opportunities.

And it’s great to see that AIDS infiltrated the two men’s lives in astonishingly different and very surprising ways, but I’m not sure after 90 minutes just how the epidemic actually changed them. Whenever AIDS (or the “gay cancer” in an early scene) was broached, you could feel the energy in the play drop, whereas the energy spiked in “The Normal Heart” because the stakes were higher for the characters.

Ultimately, this felt like an overview of gay rights milestones seeking a love story.

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