Thursday, 5 September 2013


     I was a bit leery about seeing HARBOR, particularly after sitting through WOMEN OR NOTHING the night before. Surely there are other issues for gay people than whether or how to have children. And isn't that part of a larger series of questions? Are the kids of gay parents taunted and bullied at school? Is assimilation the goal for all gay people? Are our relationships so universally accepted that there are no problems for gay families? Aren't many of us eager to assimilate into a system that is already changing radically since many young adults have very different ideas about sex and relationships? After all, statistics show than an increasing number of children are raised by single parents. All these questions are somewhat beside the point as the question of whether to have a child is only the starting point for Chad Beguelin's HARBOR, which is really about the pros and cons of maturity.
       Kevin and Ted Adams-Weller (Randy Harrison and Paul Anthony Stewart) look like one of those handsome, ideal gay couples. They have been together for a dozen years and are legally and, seemingly, happily married and living in a lovely old house in Sag Harbor. Ted is an architect and Kevin is an aspiring novelist. Their desire to be the perfect couple has led them to ignore the fault lines in their marriage. Ted has been happy to support Kevin while he works on his novel, which he has been doing for ten years and Kevin, who grew up in an unstable "trailer park trash" home has been happy to live complacently in the comfortable world Ted has designed for them. Enter Kevin's sister, Donna (Erin Cummings). Donna has gone beyond trailer park. She and her teenage daughter Lottie (Alexis Molnar) live in a van. They are, for all intents and purposes homeless. Donna has never grown up and Lottie, forced to move constantly from place to place is lonely, socially inept, but successfully self-educated. She survives by reading. Now Donna finds herself pregnant once again and, once again, has no idea who the father is. Her scheme is to leave the baby with her rich brother and his partner. Kevin, easily manipulated -- and Donna knows how to push her brother's buttons -- buys into Donna's scheme. Unfortunately Ted is passionate in his desire not to have a child. In an angry moment of truth, he tells Kevin that he already has a child -- Kevin. What will growing up mean for Kevin and can he grow up while continuing his relationship with Ted? I'm not sure I buy the ending Beguelin provides, but it has some logic and is better than the pat "happy" ending some more formulaic playwright would provide.
        HARBOR is an enjoyable play. As I walked back to the subway, I pondered why it isn't a "good" play. The characters are interesting and the relationship between Kevin and Ted struck me as totally credible. Donna is a monster who resents Kevin's life and ultimately trashes it, but I understand his decision even if I think it is a disastrous one. We've seen eccentric teenagers like Lottie before on television and in film, but she, too, seemed believable, brilliant but uncivilized and sick of dealing with her totally feckless mother. So what holds this play back? I guess I would have to say that Beguelin's writing is too prosaic. There's nothing in the language of the characters to engage our interest in them. Ted is the only one who gets flights of theatrical rhetoric in his long tirades about the horrors of rearing children and couples who flaunt their trophy children, and Stewart, the best actor of the lot, has a ball with them, but compare his tirades to the hilarious one Christopher Durang wrote for David Hyde Pierce in VANYA AND SONYA AND MASHA AND SPIKE or the beautiful long speeches Horton Foote gave Howard in THE OLD FRIENDS. They carry us along. HARBOR makes one realize the importance of the music of a play -- the language. The writing sounds like routine writing for television.
          Mark Lamos's simple direction is serviceable and the actors are all good, although Alexis Molnar has an irritating, screechy voice. Randy Harrison's boyishness was perfect for a thirty-something guy who hasn't grown up yet and he captures Kevin's desire to please. Paul Anthony Stewart's Ted is both a control freak and a nice guy -- not the easiest balance to capture. I had absolutely no sympathy for Donna -- my problem, perhaps -- but Cummings made her a three-dimensional character.  
            HARBOR is closing in New York this week, but I'm sure it will have a life in smaller regional theaters. In the right hands, and this production had them, it's an enjoyable two hours.
HARBOR. 59E59 Theatres. September 4, 2013.

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