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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Stage Directions
By Jana Monji

 L. Trey Wilson
L. Trey Wilson
(Photo: Joe Foster)
A kiss can be a magical moment. It can transform an old man into a young woman or a frog into a prince. Or it can reveal latent homophobia. In the world premiere of Stage Directions, a stage kiss forces four men to confront their feelings about homosexuality in the African American community.

Playwright L. Trey Wilson plays the flamboyant Gary, a very out-of-the-closet gay black man who doesn't mind kissing men and rarely minds the words that come out of his mouth. The object of affected affection, Rod (Marc Ewing), isn't a kisser of men. Ewing's Rod is a serious, earnest man, who doesn't believe he's homophobic. He just finds homosexuality distasteful.

The play's conservative black playwright, Terry (Kareem Ferguson), seems just pleased to have his play produced. He's pragmatic and willing to make a few compromises. His director, Jay (William Christian), attempts to make the best of a bad situation: Rod can't kiss Gary.

Under the sensitive hand of director Dan Bonnell, all sides are given balanced portrayals. Even if Rod were gay, you get the feeling he would find kissing Gary repugnant. Gary manages to annoy both Jay and Terry as well. He asks if a heterosexual director can really understand the significance of two gay men kissing in public. He wonders why rejection must mean tragedy in the play's ending. But Gary is also flawed. He's a lover of men who rarely love him back with the same dignity and intensity.

Wilson sees Gary, the playwright, as the catalyst for change and self-examination. According to the press notes, his inspirational source was a friend's 10-minute play that included a stage kiss. One of the actors was uncomfortable with kissing another man but the director couldn't replace him. The solution: the two actors turned upstage and faked a kiss.

In this second offering of the 2003-2004 Hot Properties series, Wilson comes up with a different solution, one inspired by Gary's brash comments but also tempered by Terry's more introspective nature. While the end doesn't come as a surprise, this play does succeed in questioning the significance of what one can and can't do, even when it's only make believe. Bonnell's direction doesn't allow for easy answers because no matter what the song says, a kiss isn't just a kiss.

Stage Directions is presented as a collaboration of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and A.S.K. Theater Projects.

Playwright: L. Trey Wilson
Director: Dan Bonnell
Cast: L. Trey Wilson (Gary), Marc Ewing (Rod), William Christian (Jay), Kareem Ferguson (Terry), Chuma Hunter Gault (Ben).
Set Design: John H. Binkley
Lighting Design: Jeremy Pivnick
Costume Stylist: Ann Closs-Farley
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
[Inside] the Ford, 2580 Cahuenga East Blvd., Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.
Sundays, 3 p.m.; Jan. 24-Feb. 28. $18-$20. (323) 461-3673.
Reviewed by Jana J. Monji on January 24.

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