The First Step
nytheatre.com review by Lee Ramsey
August 15, 2004
The First Step, an autobiographical new play by Henry Covery, features an ensemble of five very hard working actors, of whom Jason Currie and Ali Anderson, both playing multiple roles, are the standouts.
The problem with this play is that it can't decide what it wants to be. Is it a play about sexual addiction, or a play about being gay, or is it an AIDS play? The most interesting choice and the one that works beautifully is that it's a play about sexual addiction. But the author doesn't seem to think that that's enough (but it is, it's more than enough) and he muddies the play by adding the gay and AIDS storylines.
The First Step is the story of Joe, a sex addict, played by Jeff Meacham, and it chronicles his encounters with "tricks," interactions with family and friends, and eventually the recovery program that saves his life after it seems to bottom out. Meacham's work is very good for the first two-thirds of the play, but he isn't quite able to deliver the genuine emotion the role requires at the end. The other cast members Ali Anderson, Timothy Connell, Jason Currie and Frederick Hamilton play all of the various people in Joe's life.
There are some musical numbers that work beautifully, with wonderful high energy choreography by Thomas Mills that is beautifully executed by the cast.
After a very strong beginning the play goes off on its first tangent, the "love story" of Joe and his Israeli friend Kobi, played by Frederick Hamilton with a bizarre accent that makes him sound more Norwegian than Israeli. The play would benefit greatly from this storyline being removed from the script entirely.
At one hour and forty-five minutes with no intermission, the performance is just too long. The staging by director Michael Leeds tends to be monotonous (the series of black cubes that are moved about the stage to create each setting grow tiresome by about the halfway point), and leans dangerously toward the sentimental; the play eventually becomes very preachy. As I said earlier, The First Step gets off to a great start, and if it would just stick to telling the story of a sex addict and trust that that is enough, it would be a much stronger piece of theatre.
For those interested in the advertised nudity in the play—it's minimal and very tastefully done.