Sunday, 8 November 2015

STEVE by Mark Gerrard presented by The New Group at the Signature

     STEVE is an intelligent, witty, heartfelt comedy of manners about gay midlife crisis, that point where having everything you thought you wanted doesn't seem to be enough, when you know you're not young anymore and, if you ever thought you were sexy, you don't feel sexy anymore. The play shows us how this midlife crisis affects two gay couples. The central character is Steven (Matt McGrath), an aging chorus boy in a longterm relationship with a successful lawyer, Stephen (Malcolm Gets). In the way of affluent gay couples, they have a lovely Manhattan apartment and an eight-year-old son, whose biological mother is Steven's best friend Carrie (Ashlie Atkinson), a lesbian now terminally ill with cancer. The play begins on Steven's 47th birthday, when he discovers that Stephen has been engaged in a sexting relationship with half of the couple they spend most of their time with. The knowledge of this betrayal sends Steven into a tailspin and briefly into the arms of a cute young Argentinian waiter. Meanwhile Steven and Stephen's friends Matt and Brian (Mario Cantone and Jerry Dixon) have brought home their young physical trainer for an ongoing threesome in order to keep their relationship alive.
     This is the slightly dark side of the idealized picture of gay married life presented in Terrence McNally's MOTHERS AND SONS. Many a heterosexual has gone through what Steven and Stephen are experiencing, a seventeen year itch, but Mark Gerrard shows that with the acceptance of gay marriage, there will also be the bumps in the road any couple face.
     The play is filled with the argot of a certain gay age group who survived AIDS. Banter is laced with references to show tunes and bitchy quips about theater and theater people (Steven, Carrie and Matt were in the business). Yet it all seems natural to the characters. There's bickering, but also a good deal of love. The playwright and the superb director Cynthia Nixon have filled the play with music. The cast sings show tunes as the audience enters the theater and, as a wonderfully camp curtain call, performs "So Long, Goodbye" from THE SOUND OF MUSIC.
      Everyone is good, but special kudos to Ashlie Atkinson and Matt McGrath. We've seen the chubby lesbian gay man's best friend before, but the script makes her more than a stereotype. In the midst of the romantic-sexual turmoil of her gay male friends, Carrie is facing imminent death. Somehow losing herself in her friends' relatively trivial crises keeps her from thinking too much about hers. What can one say about Matt McGrath's performance? Steven could be irritatingly self-indulgent, but McGrath makes us care about him despite his faults. After all no one is as aware of his faults as he is. There's a wonderful ruefulness to his performance.
STEVE. The New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center. November 5, 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment