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A CurtainUp Review
The play opens when longtime partners Brian (Timothy Sekk) and Tom (Jaron Farnham) go to their liberal priest, Father Raymond (Jeremiah Wiggins), and ask if he will marry them. Father Raymond refuses, giving an extremely lucid explanation of church doctrine: "You see — there's the thing. The Church tells me — and you, that a man and a woman are physical expressions of physical forces in this world. The sacrament of matrimony is for a man and a woman. Any kind of sexual expression outside the sacrament of matrimony only satisfies narcissistic needs."
Father Raymond counsels abstinence, something that Brian declares to be unacceptable but Tom finds, in some ways, compelling. As Brian and Tom's relationship begins to fall apart, Brian's sister Irene (Kate Middleton), intercedes by trying to convince the priest to change his mind. Her intervention is not entirely disinterested: Irene, who is carrying the child of a married former lover, has allowed Brian to convince her not to have an abortion so he and Tom can raise her child.
Irene, appealing as Middleton most certainly makes her, doesn't get Father Raymond to change his mind, but she does capture his heart. Before you can count your rosaries the two are in love (another unacceptable match) and trying to figure out what to do about it.
It seems all gay men, at least on stage, have mothers who find their sons' sexual orientation, to say the least, challenging. Rose (Joy Franz) Brian's mother, is a somewhat dotty, yet charming religious fanatic who visits her priest, Father Nash (Christopher Graham), almost on a daily basis (Father Nash also happens to be Father Raymond's confessor). Her raptures over the church and its representatives are a source of much of the play's merriment. In fact, under director Jerry Less's's light touch, Avow, despite its serious title, is quite amusing. Brian and Tom, like most gay men depicted onstage, are extremely bright and witty, with a fine sense of irony. Sekk is a bit too cute, but Farnham carries through on the inherent integrity, courage and questioning mind of his character. Irene is certainly every bit their match. Even Rose has her moments, thanks to Franz's rollickingly good performance.
So why does Avow ultimately disappoint? The answer is in the ending, a pat, artificial denouement that brings the two men together but resolves nothing. At the same time Davis's conclusion leaves the relationship between Father Raymond and Irene unfulfilled and unsettled, giving this reviewer the uncomfortable feeling that Davis wasn't really concerned with Father Raymond and Irene at all, but was just using them as a device to show that gay relationships are not the only ones to cause discomfort. Julie (Elizabeth Bove), Father Raymond's housekeeper, says in no uncertain terms that she disapproves of priests having relationships with women.)
In the end, Avow becomes another play advocating for gay rights. A good cause that starts out as a good play, but disappoints in the end.
Editor's Note: Actually, this play is not newly minted but a revival so you may want to have a look at Les Gutman's review eight years ago when it premiered at the now defunct Century Center Theater. To do so, go here
Les also reviews Davis's other play Mass Appeal
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