This Is a Play About Being Gay

This is a Play About Being Gay is a new work by Teddy Nicholas premiering at the Fresh Fruit Festival. It's in three acts (short ones; the total running time is just over an hour), the first two of which focus mainly on the story of James, whose life we witness intermittently from the moment he comes out to his father during his first year of college through his eventful relationship with Brad, the young man who appears to be his soulmate. The third act is mostly a mélange/collage of sketches and interludes about aspects of gay life/lifestyles. Nicholas is exploring stereotypes (some of which I had hoped were long gone by now, but Nicholas is a lot younger than me and closer to pop culture, so what do I know). The play is billed as a comedy and has funny moments, but the undercurrent is of unhappiness: the show seems to me to be a meditation on exclusion, on otherness, or awareness of being different and left out, on loneliness and lovelessness.

Nicholas himself has directed a cast of five very accomplished actors. As James, recent Marymount Manhattan graduate Cameron Michael Burns is on stage for most of the show's running time, and he's a very compelling performer (and he gets to execute some neat dance moves, too; the transitions between acts are dance sequences). Chris Tyler plays Brad and other characters and projects a nice mix of sexiness and ingenuousness. Cory Conley, as various characters, has a wry presence that's exceedingly fun to watch. T. Ramon Campbell, as James' father and others, brings authority and charm to his work here, and has a lovely time in the spotlight with some a cappella singing. The sole woman in the show, Jen Kwok, essays a number of characters with versatility and humor.

Some of the sequences in the show are striking, such as one involving three of the cast members as teen/pre-teen boys engaged in some homophobic joking that's really uncomfortable to listen to. The plot sequences are often performed in a stylized manner that I didn't get the significance of (for example, James addresses his dad rather stiltedly as "Father" and the characters talk a lot about Homosexuals rather than use a more colloquial term like "gays." I noticed it, but I wasn't finally sure what Nicholas was getting at.

In a Q&A interview with, Nicholas says, "I hope that the play will allow audiences to see gay male relationships in different ways, and talk about their own feelings about us." I actually felt that the most evocative aspects of Play are those dealing with gay men coming up against others, outsiders in a straight world. Perhaps others will view the work differently. It's certainly provocative.