Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: The New Bromance

There are many types of love. Family love. Straight love. Gay love. But rarely do we get to see Bro love. You know, the love two best buds have for each other. In Brandon Baruch’s new play NO HOMO, we watch as two long time straight friends explore their relationship as they come to terms as to exactly what they mean to one another.
NO HOMO follows roommates and best friends Ash and Luke as they examine their friendship as new factors in their relationship are introduced. After a comedy of errors lead to the unspoken truths revealed to the wrong people, Ash and Luke’s relationship is put to the extreme test as they must admit their feelings, a very unbro-like thing to do. Baruch’s script is quite funny, filled with some brilliant one-liners and comedic gags, but also has a beautiful amount of heart and emotion. NO HOMO does have moments of a Hollywood romcom, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Where NO HOMO stands out is through it’s bravery and approach to the topic. We all know these people. We all have friends who you wonder “what if.” Friendships are harder than relationships because they tend to have more risks attached. The way these characters “come out” with the truths is empowering. Baruch takes a potentially taboo idea and brings light to it. This is a play about friendship and the impact a friend can have in your life. While the base of the story focuses on Ash and Luke, we also observe a different spectrum of gay with Serge, Ash’s brother, and Kris. The relationship that Serge and Kris have is extremely messy but, like Ash and Luke, they are compatible for each other. Though you want to shake Serge and tell him he’s an idiot, in this moment he needs Kris. The balance between the two stage relationships is intriguing to watch though the ending is a bit confusing. Without spoiling too much, Ash and Luke remain a happy bromantic duo but the facial expression Luke offers makes you wonder if he’s actually happy with the decision he’s made. Everyone loves a happy ending so the ambiguity of the ending may not necessarily be a complete crowd pleaser.
In the wrong hands, Baruch’s script could come across hokey and too much like a sitcom. Fortunately Baruch and director Jessica Hanna had an outstanding cohesive ensemble that lifted the words from the page with ease. Leading the pack was Jonny Rodgers as Ash. Rodgers used everything in his repertoire to his advantage. From his boyish good looks to his charm to his abs, there was no way you couldn’t love Ash. Rodgers’ layered performance was a real joy to watch. His chemistry with Benjamin Durham’s Luke was the heart and soul of the show. Durham was wonderful as the kinda geeky awkward Luke. As his newly out and proud sister Chrissy, Karen Baughn delivered. Baughn is a comic genius bringing a whole bunch of sass and spunk to the stage. Elizabeth Ellson as quirky Babette, Luke’s lady friend, offered some of the best unintentional intentional laughs. AJ Jones and Henry McMillan as Serge and Kris respectively played well off each other as the couple you love to hate. McMillan’s super flaming Kris was a great foil to Jones’ super macho Serge. McMillan’s Kris was a fabulous villain with some brilliant lines that deserves to have his own reality spinoff on Bravo.
With a solid ensemble and a great script to work with, director Jessica Hanna had an easy job. Hanna dove into the gamut of emotions from start to finish. By highlighting the funny, the sentimental moments were well deserved. Hanna’s staging was simple though the simplicity of David Offner’s barebones, cubes represent everything set was disappointing. Laura Wong expertly dressed the characters to bring out their personalities. The subtle soundtrack from Corwin Evans added a new dimension to the story. Playwright Baruch also served as lighting designer and truly gave his world a colorful punch.
NO HOMO is one of those plays that in the right hands is not only a wonderful piece to watch but an incredible script for actors to explore. With an exceptional cast and a accurately poignant story, NO HOMO is certainly a highlight of this year’s FringeNYC.