Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Review: A Mormon and a Gay Sit Under a Tree

Sometimes theater is hard to watch. Not because it’s bad but because it strikes a cord on a personal level. That was my experience with Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea. The base of the play is simple: two best friends begin to drift apart over time. The extenuating circumstances are what make this play stand out. One of the friends is openly Mormon, the other is openly gay. As they begin to journey to adulthood, it becomes clear to them that their beliefs will strongly affect their friendship. With Prop 8 as a backdrop, though a very minor one in the grand scheme of the play, Adam and Steve’s once inseparable bond grows tumultuous as they grow up.
Told through a number of scenes that take place under "their tree", with some jumping backwards in time to their childhood, playwright Matthew Greene’s title characters have a very special friendship. They spew out the truth. They say exactly what’s on their mind. They tell each other everything. So when Steve feels he has comfort in coming out to Adam, Adam says how he feels about it. Thus starts the downward spiral. Adam does not exactly approve for obvious reasons yet Steve is still holding on. When not preaching, which happens frequently in the play, Greene does a phenomenal job at constructing tender moments between the two boys. Watching Steve try to talk to Adam about their friendship, trying to salvage any last sliver was like holding a mirror to the audience. We’ve all been in that position. I found myself jotting down exact lines that I have said to my friend. So in those moments, the play was a success. But it was when the script grew more politically-driven that the characters seemed false. Both actors did a great job treading relationship with belief. Topher Rasmussen and Logan Tarantino, as Adam and Steve respectively, had a nice chemistry with one another. Though you may not have picked this pair to be besties if they were walking down the street, on stage they looked like they knew each other forever. Rasmussen played Adam with strong conviction. Tarantino, though occasionally monotonous in his delivery, gave Steve passion and determination. Director Jerry Rapier did all he could do at staging the play in the insanely tricky CSV Kabayitos. He’s lucky his actors were tall enough for the audience in the last few rows to see. With a tight space, the characters barely moved which slowed down the pace a bit.
They say art imitates life if you look closely enough at it. Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea did just that. It’s a heart wrenching script with a purpose that deserved much more attention.