Rainy Days %amp; Mondays
nytheatre.com review by Kevin Connell
August 17, 2006
What is "The Circuit"? It's a wave of partiers fashioned in themes of black, white, purple, or blue. It's tens of thousands of sweaty men, touching, pulsating, and spinning in the midst of an ever-changing rainbow of hallucinatory hues. It's sexy. It's sex. It's intoxicating. It's drugs. And in the midst of all this ecstasy, no matter what city they're in—New York, Palm Springs, Montreal, Sydney—there's bound to be a huge dose of reality. Stopping the beat. Turning on the fluorescents. Testing friendships. Testing desires, and wants, and expectations, and responsibilities. And then there's the ever-present HIV halting it all. The remix is no more. The song is a ballad. The party's over. It's Monday. And it's raining.
And so it goes with Andrew Barrett's new play Rainy Days & Mondays. Set in 1996 at the height of the circuit party craze, this play centers on the lives of four friends, as they travel month after month to the next city, to the next party, to the next problem. There's Brian, the young innocent, and Paul, his HIV-positive and distant boyfriend. And there's the flamboyantly wealthy Lenny and his hunky HIV-positive beau, David, with Midwestern good looks and questionable sexual habits. This group of twentysomethings all seem to be coming of age before our eyes as they struggle with love, boundaries, betrayal, death, and recovery.
The play, unfortunately, is more Dante's Cove than Love! Valour! Compassion!; more television than theatre. This is disappointing. Barrett throws jargon into his script that is cliché rather than believable. His characters spew off a list of buzzwords—David Barton, Susanne Bartsch, Food Bar, 8th Avenue, the Roxy, and HX Magazine—but they come off more as a device to telegraph how "in" the characters are than as believable givens in their lives. The play seems to draw too much attention to itself, working too hard to prove, to please, to posture. Barrett's best writing is found is in his monologues—but they still beg for the theatrical beat and passion of "The Circuit." I missed the rhythm of the dance, the sweat of real sexual energy, and the numbing afterglow of the high.
Part of the problem here is a cast of well-intentioned actors who come off more as party wannabes than the dual-income/no-dependents demographic that actually populated/s the circuit. In reality, who is this populace? They're the wealthy that can afford to fly all over the country and the world for a weekend party. The ones who can pay the $100 to get into each of the one-night events and still pay for the hotel, the airfare, the food, and the "party incidentals," without putting a dent into their wallets. Or, they're the rent boys or the boyfriends being taken along for the ride. I couldn't discern from Barrett's cast of characters how they fit into this equation. It seemed more frat-boy than circuit-boy. More dorm room than Delano Hotel. In spite of this, special notice must be given to Jamyl Dobson, who is outstanding as Larry. His performance is the most realized, mature, and believable in the show.
As the production's director, Niegel Smith does his best to bring dimension to a lacking script and young cast. He focuses on the scene work and character relationships as a means to deepen moments and the overall arch of the production—and he is to be commended for this. But in the end, this production pretends to be the party it's not.