nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
November 11, 2009
I think the best way to give you a feel for Elliot Ramon Potts's new play Loaded is to let you read its first few lines for yourself. Its two characters are naked under the sheets, having just finished some passionate love-making:
PATRICK (kissing Jude, lying next to him): Mmmmmm...
JUDE: That tongue...(Deep kissing for a moment)...is awesome.
PATRICK: What do you like about it?
(Patrick gets on top of Jude, sniffing/licking his armpit.)
JUDE: I like the way it moves... (Patrick licks his nipple, Jude arches his back slightly and closes his eyes.) I like the way it tastes.
(I am sparing you the next line, in which Patrick reminds Jude where his tongue most recently was.)
I recognize that this is a matter of personal taste, but at this point I already knew that I would dislike this play. I was right.
The idea of Loaded is that Patrick is in his late 40s and Jude is in his mid 20s, and that this generational difference will make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to develop a loving and respectful relationship. While the inherent differences between gay men born in the 1960s and gay men born in the 1980s (mostly surrounding the AIDS epidemic) are certainly touched upon ad nauseam in Loaded, I concluded that the reason Patrick and Jude's affair is doomed is because both of these men are selfish, small-minded, intolerant, and, on some level, self-loathing: gay archetypes you'd expect to find in a play of Boys in the Band vintage, rather than in something written in 2009. Although Jude claims to want to get to know Patrick better, he never asks him any questions about himself but rather either prattles on about his own life and opinions or criticizes his presumptive lover for being politically (and, in one place, grammatically) incorrect. Patrick, on the other hand, is fairly up-front about just wanting to have sex, though his actions and approach sometimes feel more like rape than seduction. These two ill-matched men do not constitute a love match, and watching them spend 90 minutes figuring this out is fairly rough going.
Director Michael Unger, presumably with the cooperation of actors Kevin Spirtas (Patrick) and Scott Kerns (Jude), plays up the sexually charged atmosphere, with the actors touching and interacting far more intimately than its really comfortable to watch without feeling like a voyeur. And the actors' coyness about being naked (Spirtas, for example, spends much of the first 10 minutes or so of the play covering himself up with the bed sheet, which hardly feels like what someone like Patrick would do after hours of hot sex) makes the whole thing feel like soft porn, which I don't think is what anybody intends.
In fact, I think Potts intends Loaded to mostly be a serious examination of the generation gap I mentioned earlier. Issue after issue is trotted out: not just AIDS, but also gay marriage, gay rape, sexual abuse, pedophilia, substance abuse, circuit parties, gays' attitudes toward lesbians, gay parenting, and more. There is some potentially provocative material here, but Potts never makes any of it feel organic: the conversation that Patrick and Jude have, ranging over all of the above and much more, isn't one that any two actual people have ever had. And some of the dialogue—I'm thinking particularly of an anecdote that Patrick relates about moving his bowels at an inopportune moment—is frankly disgusting.
The set, designed by Adam Koch, depicts Patrick's very crowded Manhattan studio apartment, so filled with furniture and other items that the actors barely have room to move. Steven Schacht's costumes are mostly underclothes (though both men do wind up fully dressed by the end of the show). The performers seemed under-rehearsed at the show I attended, particularly Spirtas, who struggled throughout with his lines.