Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Pride

The publicity material for The Pride says, "Oliver, Philip, and Sylvia are caught in a kind of erotic time warp. Their complex love triangle, replete with conflicting loyalties and passions, jumps from 1958 to the present and back in a maelstrom of fantasy, repression and rebellion." Okay, I didn't get that. What I saw was a play about two distinct sets of male lovers, one in 1958 and one in the present, and the women in their lives. Yes, the characters had the same names in both time frames, but I interpreted that fact as a way to set up parallel stories. Anyway, it doesn't matter. Either way, The Pride, written by Alexi Kaye Campbell and directed by Joe Mantello, is a strong, moving, insightful investigation of how homophobia destroys people, what love really means, and how difficult it can be to know and accept one's self. While The Pride is in many ways a play of ideas, Campbell avoids any preachiness or artificial structuring. Instead, he gives us a story of believably flawed people stumbling through life, as people often do. The first act is excellent and hard-hitting; the second act is not as well-developed, possibly because being 100% true to the set-up would have been a bit brutal. The cast is well-nigh perfect. Ben Whishaw is somewhat mannered, but it works, and he so totally inhabits the bodies of the two Olivers that you know which one he is by how he stands. Andrea Riseborough, in the sometimes thankless role(s) of Sylvia(s), imbues her/them with a potent inner life and remarkable strength. Hugh Dancy has that amazing ability to devastate with just a movement of his eyes or the slightest tilt of his head. And Adam James, in three supporting roles, perfectly complements the other performers.

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