Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
Where Do We Live
By Elyse Sommer
In Four he used that most American of holidays, the Fourth of July, to examine the isolation and desires of four average individuals from a cross-section of American life in the year 1996, when the author himself was only a few years older than the inexperienced homosexual teenager on his first date. In What Didn't Happen, the playwright moved three years forward to explore what did and didn't happen to collapse the dreams of a group of once hopeful Clintonites.
Where Do We Live uses September 11, 2001 as a focal point in a tale of Manhattanites whose lives were already bombed out before the World Trade Center bombing. It features his largest cast yet -- 9 actors, 15 characters -- but then this isn't Hartford (the author's home town and the setting for Four) or a country cottage (the setting for What Didn't Happen) . The two key characters, are two men of approximately the same age who live in the same building but travel in very different worlds: Stephen (Luke MacFarlane) is gay, white, a middle class college graduate and writer with an overactive liberal sensibility; Shedrick AKA Shedd, (Burl Moseley), is heterosexual, African-American, and, for lack of an entree into a better way of life, a drug dealer.
The people figuring importantly in Stephen's life are his boyfriend Tyler (Jacob Pitts), a fledgling actor who lives off a trust fund and unlike the politically intense Stephen manages to be blind to the hopeless and needy; Stephen's college chum Patricia (Emily Bergl) who, as the play's voice of reason, lends a sympathetic ear to the conflicted Stephen as well as two gung-ho Republican stock traders (Aaron Stanford and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, in the first of their multiple roles) who frequent the bar where she works. There's also Leo (Aaron Yoo), an Asian gay man who adds another wrinkle into the racism issue when he sees Stephen's rejection of his overtures at a club as one more sign of his having "no access" and being "totally ignored."
In Shedrick's adjoining but different universe, we have his crippled uncle Timothy (Daryl Edwards), Lily (Liz Stauber), the sexy young Brit who's his white supplier's (Aaron Stanford again) girlfriend but seems to like to hang out with Shed. It is Timothy's habit of knocking on Stephen's door to borrow cigarettes and money that connects the lives of the two men and causes dissent in each apartment. Tyler considers Stephen a patsy for responding to Timothy's borrowing -- Timothy's involvement with Stephen also stirs up Shed's simmering resentment against the older man.
In his debut as director and writer, Shinn has created a visually effective, if often too busy, production. The messy personal and professional lives and the multiple issues play out on Rachel Hauck's versatile side by side set which cleverly accommodates the bar where Patricia works and a gay club into the side by side apartments. While he's elicited strong performances from the cast -- particularly from supporting players Jesse Tyler Feguson, Emily Bergl and Luke McFarlane -- he has failed to keep it from drifting along rather aimlessly and to make characters like Leo more a mouthpiece for moral statements than a real person. At almost two hours and without intermission, the issue stuffed dialogue rarely rises to really strong dramatic heights. As if he was aware of this, the director, has relied heavily on extensive and explicit sexual scenes to stimulate the audience and also to mitigate some of the overly long scenes. I'm talking about masturbation, cunnilingus, varied sexual positions -- this is not for anyone who thinks sexual activity should be left to the imagination!
As in his other plays Where Do We Live, reveals an author with a genuine concern for important social and personal issues. Even though it didn't engage me as it should someone who also "lives here", I look forward to Mr. Shinn's next outing.
LINKS TO CHRISTOPHER SHINN'S PREVIOUS PLAYS
What Didn't Happen
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.