Saturday, November 21, 2015


I've found it's true that as we get older, "Friends are the families we choose." It's also true that there are infinite variations of the human condition. Because it's so vast, pop culture -- including or maybe especially politics -- wants to aggregate people into easy-to-handle categories. For example, "the gay community." Honest to god, I don't know who or what that is. I know there are groups of people who have certain common characteristics. But as research that produced the Kinsey Scale* showed, you can't put people into neat little boxes:

I came across a post about this new Broadway show called "Steve." Naturally, I wanted to know what it's about (story below). I don't know how much the generalized experience of urban gay men relates to guys who grew up on farms and messed around with their best friends, but it sounds as if this might not be tooooooooo much of a cliché. Let me know if you see it . . .

"Steve," the new off-Broadway play by Mark Gerrard, features characters who grapple with aging, infidelity and mortality. The play poses the question of whether or not the gay community is facing an identity crisis now that same-sex couples have made strides toward mainstream acceptance.

And yet, it's a comedy.

The play, which opened Nov. 18, at New York's Pershing Square Signature Center and is directed by Cynthia Nixon, follows Steven (Matt McGrath), a failed Broadway chorus boy turned stay-at-home dad who is struggling, in unflattering yet humorous ways, with the transition into middle age.

The character begins a downward spiral at his 47th birthday party where, after a few martinis, he discovers that his longtime partner and co-parent, Stephen (Malcolm Gets), has been sexting Brian (Jerry Dixon), the partner of his best friend, Matt (Mario Cantone). Meanwhile, Steven's lesbian friend Carrie (Ashlie Atkinson), who has been his closest confidante, later finds out her cancer is terminal.

Adding some sizzle to the plot is a young, handsome Argentine (Francisco Pryor Garat), who catches Steven's eager-to-rove eye, while Brian and Matt consider spicing up their relationship with the help of a hunky fitness trainer.

Gerrard said he drew from his own experiences as a gay man, as well as those of friends, in creating "Steve," which has been produced by The New Group. Although none of his characters are married, he says it was New York's legalization of same-sex marriage in 2011 that inspired him to write "Steve," which is also his first work produced off-Broadway.

The playwright and his partner were meeting a group of friends at New York's Stonewall Inn on the eve of the same-sex marriage bill's passage when, he said, they had a collective epiphany.

"There was this terrifying instant where we all took a breath and looked at each other and essentially asked in unison, 'Does this mean we're supposed to all get married now?' And that moment seemed like a really juicy place to start thinking about a play," he said.

More than anything, Gerrard said he hopes to stress the significance of the self-created "gay family" that's made up of friends in his play, which he calls "one of the most unique things about being gay." To emphasize that point, he said that he saw Steven and his friends as the type of rabid Broadway fans you'd most likely find at a downtown piano bar, peppering their dialogue with references to "Wicked," Stephen Sondheim and Kristin Chenoweth. Several scenes even feature a sung-through musical prelude; Cantone's version of "Never-Never Land" from 1954's "Peter Pan" is particularly stirring.

"If you think about it, you’re usually the only gay born into a straight family, so as a child you end up being a little off on your own and have your own obsessive -- and, in retrospect, what often seem to be very gay -- interests," Gerrard said. Calling himself "obsessed with musical theater," he added, "The extended family in 'Steve' ended up mirroring mine."

While all of his show's characters are gay, Gerrard said he hopes their middle-age struggles will resonate with straight audiences, too, because "growing old is difficult for everyone." The main difference for gays and lesbians, he said, is that "we're in uncharted territory."

"We're the first generation to grow old grappling with these steps towards equality," he said. "Who are we and who do we want to be, if we're not on the outside looking in?"

* The Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale, sometimes referred to as the “Kinsey Scale,” was developed by Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin in 1948, in order to account for research findings that showed people did not fit into neat and exclusive heterosexual or homosexual categories.

Interviewing people about their sexual histories, the Kinsey team found that, for many people, sexual behavior, thoughts and feelings towards the same or opposite sex was not always consistent across time. Though the majority of men and women reported exlusively opposite attraction, thoughts and behavior, and a percentage reported exclusively homosexual behavior and attractions, many individuals disclosed behaviors or thoughts somewhere in between. As Kinsey writes in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948):

“Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats…The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

amen to paragraph 1