nytheatre.com review by Kat Chamberlain
August 14, 2012
I would like everyone to see Pieces.
Short of that, I would like you to know that there is this risky, scary, funny, incredibly intelligent open-heart-surgery-into-your-soul kind of play. There are more descriptions I can use, but I'll settle for what a piece(s) of work.
The theme is life in the gay community, or how in your own flock you can mistreat each other even more so than outsiders do you, or how homophobia is not the only prejudice gay people have to deal with, or how you can still find someone who loves you no matter how unlovable you think you are. But that's still not all: it shows how complex human emotions are. Like a million pieces trying to make whole.
Shane, a young drifter in West Hollywood, gets arrested at the scene of a brutal homicide. The victim, Steven, was an ultra-wealthy older man who practically kept a harem of "pretty boys." The heinous nature of his death stirs up a storm that involves three people: Shane's court-appointed defender, Rory; the District Attorney, Mary; and a freelance journalist from New York, Nick. There is also Jonathan, who hooked up Shane with Steven years ago and remained a close friend to both. The fact that Rory, Nick and Jonathan are also gay, and all involved in the case for their own reasons, tightens this web of entanglement nearly to the breaking point.
As the pieces to the murder puzzle quickly come together through investigation and negotiations, we find out that the supposed-crusader-for-justice Rory has a chip on his shoulder the size of, just perhaps, the entire gay community. Not fitting into the stereotype of beautiful and charming gay men, Rory struggles to gain the position he wants and feels marginalized in his own community. He turns his sense of inadequacy into loathing and rage—or outright misanthropy: "You guys are a dime a dozen out here," he tells his client, who roamed from one rich guy's house to another.
But things will happen to force Rory to come out, not from the closet he thought he got out of at age seventeen, but from his self-imposed emotional exile. We learn how Shane became the lost soul that he is, and why Mary the DA invests herself so deeply in this case. Nick the sleek reporter delivers a surprise to complete this very human tapestry.
The performances are universally compelling. Nina Millin's Mary is strong, exuding conviction and cynicism alike that adds tremendous realism. Joe Briggs is simply fabulous as Nick, and I totally buy everything he sells. But I want to give my flowers to Jonathan Gibson: He plays Rory with incredible chutzpah—so vital, uncompromising yet vulnerable, it's the most courageous portrayal of a character—gay or straight— I have seen for a long, long time.
Director Brian Zimmer devises a thriller-cinema feel that suits the play's L.A. backdrop and the narrative's innate tension. Playwright Chris Phillips's rapid-fire dialogue is so sharp that this would make an excellent radio play as well. If I must nitpick (I only do that to shows that are just about perfect, mind you), I would tighten the ending more. The whodunit part left me not entirely clear nor satisfied, and the final two scenes seemed a bit abrupt and rushed. Or, truth be told, I just didn't want the show to end.
This gripping show represents two qualities I identify with FringeNYC most: authenticity and fearlessness. To find your own perspective of the world and tell it as is. I do not just love this play; I admire it.