Deceit

nytheatre.com review by Pamela Butler
January 12, 2013

In Deceit, written by Richard Ploetz and directed by Andreas Robertz, Frank, a middle aged, married man with a young son, has a good career as a banker and a secret life on the side.  He’s gay, but for whatever reason, and there are plenty,  he’s made the serious commitment to love and honor a woman and father a child.

Frank’s story may serve as a cautionary tale for men who are conflicted about their public sexual identity, because living a life of constant deceit is a hard way to live. All the more reason for gays to continue to stand and be counted.

When we meet Frank he has discovered the joys of internet dating and seems to have ramped up his activities as a result. He also responds, on Craig’s List, to a young reporter named Ken, nicely played by Joshua Zerger, who is also gay and writing a story about just such men as Frank; married but carrying on same sex affairs on the side. What Frank, who is Bob in his gay life, doesn’t know, is that Ken is writing this story for a glossy, hip new magazine that happens to be edited by Frank’s wife, Helen.

Adding to this potentially explosive situation is the reemergence of an old flame of Frank’s, Jeffrey.  Either way, Jeffrey, a high end accessories salesman, most charmingly portrayed by Mario Golden, makes a connection with Helen; they both share a love of Hermes scarves. This connection seems to go nowhere except to upset Frank when Helen invites him to dinner.

The press material suggests that Frank really wants to get caught, which is why he has sought out Ken, but the dialog doesn’t support this and it could just as easily be Frank’s ego, guilt or curiosity that draws him to Ken, whom he has an affair with. He’s a self admitted sex addict, so why not?

Frank, as played by Steven Hauck, is glib, superficial, rather soulless and a coward. What a terrible affliction. Helen, his sophisticated and beautiful wife, loves him and tells him this often.  She tells him she couldn’t live without him but it doesn’t seem clear why.   There isn’t a whiff of real intimacy between them.  They have their roles to play,  or at least he does.

Glory Gallo as Helen,  smart and cosmopolitan, seems to have no idea of her husband’s double life.  At one point she complains to Frank how she misses making love, it’s been too long.  How long has it been?  Weeks, months, years? It isn’t clear, but it isn’t so long that she suspects anything other than the fault of their busy lives.

There are gay jokes, snickers and allusions to rough sex in the action,  but they all fall flat in contrast to the plight of eight year old Tommy, who has nightmares and talks of killing all the girls on his fantasy island so he can be with daddy and lots of boys.  Ethan Haberfield, as Tommy, does an excellent job conveying the confusion, frustration and longing of a boy who needs his father but isn’t quite getting the real deal.

Whether it’s the writing or directing or both, in two hours the story drones along from one brief encounter to another, building a picture of Frank’s life but not stopping to develop any real connections.   There is a lot of talk and some of it is clever, but Frank keeps moving to avoid any confrontations, any responsibility.

At the back of these scenes is Tommy, the sad victim of all this double dealing , doing the best he can.  He keeps a ball of his father’s used dental floss.  We never find out why.  It’s an interesting if creepy detail, yet other than mom noticing and commenting on it and telling Frank about it, nothing more is made of it.  If there is a deeper, symbolic meaning, it isn’t woven into the story.

 There is something unfocused and disjointed about the production.  Things begin to bubble but nothing ever reaches a good boil. I miss any sense of real tension or conflict, resolution, catharsis, enlightenment. I’m being told a lot, but I’m not being engaged in much. I’m thinking it would make a better short story.  There are details and subtleties that seem too small, disconnected and rushed to work well on the stage.

Yanko Bakulic is resourceful and utilitarian in his set design which is minimal.  The production values are bare bones but they  serve. I/Y Berlin composed the rough industrial, music, again suggesting a gravity  and tension that doesn’t quite gel in the drama.

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