Sunday, November 29, 2015


Steven (Matt McGrath) and Stephen (Malcolm Gets) have been together 16 years. They have an amazing relationship and a fabulous son named Zack. But there are cracks in the plaster. The relationship isn't actually that amazing. Zack is a bit of a klepto. At the start of the play, the two Steves and their best friends--Matt (Mario Cantone) and Brian (Jerry Dixon), a long-time couple in an open relationship, and Carrie (Ashlie Atkinson), a lesbian with terminal cancer--are celebrating Steven’s birthday. Steven mentions his class in optical art. He orders a vodka stinger. He's snotty to everyone. No one can figure out why he’s acting even more pissy than usual. The thing is, Zack took Stephen’s iPhone, and when Steven retrieved it, he got a glance at some of Stephen’s texts. Add young and attractive waiter-dancer Esteban (Francisco Pryor Garat), who I'm sure can fox trot, and a trainer we never see (named, wait for it, Steve), mix thoroughly, season with many Sondheim references, cook for 90 minutes, and you have Steve, Mark Gerrard's entertaining but unsatisfying play at The New Group, directed by Cynthia Nixon.

Cantone, Gets, McGrath,
Dixon, Atkinson
First, the entertaining parts: The show is frequently funny; the theatre refs are great fun if you tend to find theatre refs great fun; and there is some fine acting. The play is framed by nice bits that I won't spoil here. And the play has ambition. It explores, or at least dips into, aging, death, monogamy, what it means to lead a good life.

Here be spoilers

Then, the unsatisfying parts: Steven is an obnoxious, self-centered man whose redeeming characteristics are so well-hidden as to be invisible. He's tedious, always brooding on the wrongs that happened heaven knows how many years ago. He makes no effort to deal with Carrie's reality, refusing to admit that she's dying and always changing the subject to himself. (In one case, he segues to "Every Day a Little Death" and his relationship when Carrie is trying to have an honest conversation with him about her impending demise.) That's a legitimate, if unattractive characterization. But by the end of the play, author Gerrard himself has treated Carrie less as Steven's best friend and more as a token lesbian whose death is only significant as a growth experience for Steven. It's been annoying for decades to have gay men treated in this way in mainstream works; it's even more annoying to have a gay woman treated this way in a gay play.

End of spoilers

Overall, this is a perfectly competent, by-the-numbers play. If you are part of its main demographic--middle-class gay guys, mostly white--chances are that you will get more out of it than I did.

On the other hand, although I was ultimately unimpressed by Steve, I did laugh a lot.

Wendy Caster
(5th row, press ticket)

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