Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review: The Puzzling World of Love

By Michael Block

Love. Who says it’s easy? In Jordan Seavey’s fluid drama Homos, or Everyone in America, the unbridled romance between a young gay couple. Bouncing around in time, Homos lives in a period, yet resonates today. The Labyrinth Theater Company production packs the drama into the intimate space with little escape, physically or emotionally.
The relationship of two men is at the forefront of Jordan Seavey’s searing Homos. Simply identified as The Academic and The Writer, these two go through five years of tears, heartbreak, turmoil, love, and conversation to discover just what their bond truly is. Bouncing around Brooklyn, Seavey opts for a non-linear narrative, incorporating bits and pieces of the story that ultimately creates on big picture puzzle. And don’t think you’re experiencing déjà vu. Seavey’s beats will ultimately come together in the end. Whether the story hits you or the commentary is too cliche, Homos is a showcase of Seavey’s exemplary writing. The whiplash-inducing dialogue is a tumultuous marriage of colloquial and poetic. Seavey rarely gives his company a moment of air when they’re chin-deep in conversation. But when silence is awarded, it’s purposeful and prominent. Where Homos falls into stereotype is the exhausting discussions of gay relationships. Though Seavey perfectly captures the essence of the battle of monogamy and open relationships. If you’re searching for answers in your next debate, ask Jordan Seavey if you can borrow a few of his lines. This isn’t to say Seavey doesn’t eloquently carve out a discussion. They add subtle glimpses toward the characters but not enough to sustain. It’s one thing to know The Academic is so opposed to adding a new party to the mix but it’s stronger to learn the whys. Seavey has room to keep his commentary while integrating it into the character better. Five years is a long time to track an arc. Yet Seavey does a decent job taking care of his couple. We don’t need to see everything but there are certainly moments we wished we saw.
photo by Monique Carboni
The Mike Donahue helmed production was all about minimalism. With virtually no props or scenic elements, Donahue’s direction was smooth flowing. The simplicity in direction allowed the words to be the focus. That being said, site lines were absolutely ridiculous. Even in the “best seats in the house,” you’re bound to miss something or have a head in your way. Presented in the round, of sorts, the bizarre seating arrangement caused a plethora of issues. For example, from my vantage point, whenever the couple would engage in interaction on the floor, I saw nothing but three rows of heads. The only scenic element that introduced time was a window with a Kerry/Edwards campaign sticker on it. Luckily, I had a great view for the action there! Dane Laffrey’s untreated wood risers and carpeted floor allowed the lights from Scott Zielinski to flourish in a variety of looks. Jessica Pabst’s costume design was basic. The way she dressed the two central characters didn’t necessarily explain much about their personality but those socks spoke volumes! The pineapple socks for The Writer and the Mondrian inspired socks for The Academic were a wonderful addition. Pabst did add some pizzazz for Dan’s flashy gay protest outfit and it was nothing short of prideful.
As The Academic and The Writer, Robin De Jesus and Michael Urie, respectively, were a dynamic pair that flipped emotion on a dime. The range of emotion that Seavey put De Jesus through was mind-blowing. And not once did he stammer. De Jesus had a heightened playfulness as The Academic. The Writer was a bit more voice of stereotype and yet Michael Urie captured honesty in the man with an open heart. With the speed of Seavey’s text, De Jesus and Urie passed the ball without ever dropping. Though it was virtually a two character play, De Jesus and Urie were joined by Aaron Costa Ganis as Dan, the third wheel and cog in the romance, and Stacey Sargeant as Laila the Lush girl. They filled a role as a device but both made their presence worthwhile.
Homos, or Everyone in America is a unique examination of love and relationships told through a familiar lens. Jordan Seavey’s script ebbs and flows but keeps the audience on top of the wave. The production would greatly benefit from a little more space but no matter what, it’s all about the words that completed the puzzle.