Afterglow

 

Despite nudity and explicit gay sex, this is a substantial drama with believable characters whose emotions are real and tug at the heart.

 

 

 

by Joel Benjamin

 

Is there really such a thing as a “gay play”? As homosexuality is being more and more normalized and gay marriage is a firmly established civil right, can a romantic triangle, one in which all three corners are male, attract a wide audience? Is it any different from a straight love triangle? Yes and no.

 

Afterglow, the new domestic drama written and directed by S. Asher Gelman, seems, at least for now, to be attracting a mostly gay crowd interested in the subject matter and the explicit nudity and sexuality of play. It is, however, a well-written, character-driven drama, kind of a gay contemporary Back Street (Fannie Hurst) or Betrayal (Harold Pinter) which also involved infidelities that led to tragic consequences.

 

Afterglow opens just moments after the three characters have enjoyed each others’ company in bed. Josh (Brandon Haagenson), an actor/director is married to Alex (Robbie Simpson), a chemist. Both are in their thirties and are expecting a baby. Darius (Patrick Reilly), a twenty-something, is a massage therapist who answered their ad.

 

The talk is of the mutual admiration variety, until Josh, with Alex’s permission, has extra-marital sex with an initially reluctant Darius. The only rules are: no overnights and no falling in love. The trouble is that Josh and Darius get too involved until Alex angrily pulls the plug on their obsessive tryst.

 

Gelman skillfully creates three real people whose strengths and weaknesses make it difficult to judge their actions. Darius is an almost noble character with a childlike outlook. He is one massage therapist who would never supply a “happy ending,” so seriously does he take his profession and role in life.

 

Alex is the most together character, that is, until he is tested by Josh’s emotional and sexual defection. He has deferred to Josh for the genetic material that created the baby they are expecting from a surrogate and happily refers to the developing fetus in terms of fruit, according to its size—apple, pear, papaya, etc.

 

Josh is the most immature of the three, a theater artist whose production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is consuming what time he doesn’t spend with Darius, leaving Alex out in the cold in so many ways. Josh even has the audacity—so self-centered is he—to be jealous when Alex invents a sexual tryst just to make him jealous.

 

Things do not end well, but Gelman leaves a great deal up in the air, just as such a situation would end in real life. The future of all three characters is fuzzy, but sad.

 

Ann Beyersdorfer’s sleek, shiny black is quite clever. The big bed morphs into a shower and into the rest of the apartment of the couple and Darius’ massage studio.

 

Fabian Aguilar’s costumes, although casual, except for Josh’s formal suit for his opening night, manages to tell a great deal about the characters and their tastes.

 

Jamie Roderick’s lighting, which included fluorescent lights embedded in the floor, turned from warmth to coolness as the play progressed.

 

Gelman directed his play to give each character his full worth. All the emotional ups and downs are clearly communicated. The play moves along with increasing speed to its finale.

 

 

Afterglow. Through July 30 at The Loft at the Davenport Theatre (354 West 45th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues). Run time: two hours 15 minutes, including one intermission. www.afterglowtheplay.com

 

 

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