To Whom It May Concern
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 18, 2006
The premise of Aurin Squire's new play To Whom It May Concern sounds like it could be the basis for a sex comedy: A gay teenager initiates an email correspondence with a Marine in Iraq, pretending to be a girl named Lillian. What happens when the Marine gets two-weeks' leave and comes to meet his sexy paramour in person?
The result is anything but funny, as Squire uses this set-up to explore the loneliness and isolation of his two protagonists. Though their natures and their circumstances couldn't be more disparate, 15-year-old Lorenzo and 21-year-old Maurice Creely share a need for love, understanding, and companionship that ultimately supercedes their differences. To Whom It May Concern is finally about what makes all of us human, and how the desire to reach out to someone that arises from that simple fact defies categories and preconceived ideas about who/how we're supposed to love.
At the center of Squire's sensitive script are two long monologues, one for each character, that serve to define these young men and to raise some interesting questions about how our culture accommodates their situations. Lorenzo tells Maurice that he feels entirely out-of-place because his (same-sex) desires are deemed inappropriate by everyone around him; he says he wishes he could be like everyone else but he can't, and ponders suicide as the only way out. Maurice movingly describes a mission to deliver some sewage pipe to an Iraqi building that goes terribly, terribly awry; but even worse than the horrors that he's witnessed is his palpable sense of having been deserted by his country as the war spins so badly out of control—the apathy of everyday Americans has turned him not into a Vietnam-Era pariah but a genuinely forgotten cog in a machine that no one seems to care about.
Squire will perhaps raise hackles in some quarters with both of these speeches, but their power is undeniable, and they effectively drive the plot toward its climactic scene, in which the two young men meet in Lorenzo's bedroom and try to figure out how to process a love that now seems impossible.
Ted Caine (Lorenzo) and Vincent Ingrisano (Maurice) give convincing performances and make the occasional artifice of the situation seem compellingly real throughout. Erick Herrscher's staging is straightforward and uncompromising, and he makes smart use of the very spare production design (appropriate to the festival setting). All in all, To Whom It May Concern is an engaging and provocative new drama that allows us to walk in some other fellows' shoes for a couple of hours, yielding significant insights along the way.