THEATER REVIEW: “The Pride” @ convergence-continuum by Roy Berko

Through Sat 4/20

Convergence continuum recently staged Rapture, Blister, Burn, a very well written, clearly staged show that highlighted the author’s intent and purpose. It was a standout production.

Sorry, but in spite of a valiant effort by the cast (Amy Bistok, David Munnell, Beau Reinker and Brian Westerley) and director (Jonathan Wilhelm), the same positives cannot be said of their present show The Pride.

Though author Alexi Kaye Campbell won an award for Most Promising Playwright, his The Pride is not an easy show to watch. It is overly long and not well-constructed. In fact, after a more than 90 minute first act, when the question was “Is the play over or is this intermission?,” there was a tacked on “second act.”

As described, “The action of the play is set in two-time periods, 1958 and 2008, which interrelate in several ways, most obviously through the characters: in each period there is an Oliver, a Philip and a Sylvia, all in their mid-thirties, and each played by the same actor in both periods.

The 1958 Philip is a well-heeled estate agent married to Sylvia, a children’s book writer. However, when Sylvia invites her illustrator Oliver over for drinks, there is an immediate attraction between the two men. Philip is both drawn to and repelled by Oliver’s advances, aware that his whole identity may be at stake should his true feelings be known.

In 2008, the names are the same but Philip and Oliver are this time in a relationship, which has been damaged by Oliver’s addiction to anonymous sex. Sylvia is the friend to whom they turn for comfort.”

If it were that simple. Unfortunately, it is not.

First, it is difficult to figure out, based on the modest setting (a table and a few chairs) which era we are in, as scenes jump back and forth with few clear transitions and nothing more than subtle identity variations. Maybe a date stamp projected on the scenes would have helped. Maybe clearer era-specific costume designs might have helped. How about using different accents or even hairpieces? Whatever, we needed something to help.

Even if the technical aspects had been inserted successfully, the play’s message is unclear. There are so many issues, including homosexual self-hate, conflicted married gay men, gay men’s quest for sex rather than for love, promiscuity, conversion therapy, fetishes, whether men are born gay or whether it is a “learned or acquired” behavior, that it appears that the British-Greek author simply sat down and listed as many angst-inducing homosexual topics he could think of, and then slammed them together in one script.

The bottom line is: What was the author’s intent and purpose? The answer: ???.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT:  con-con is noted for doing scripts that other area theaters won’t attempt. Sometimes their bold steps work well. In this instance, sorry, no gold ring. As presented, The Pride is a long and tedious sit, interrupted by a few laughs.

The Pride” runs through Sat 4/20 @ 8m on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to convergence-continuum.org/.

[Written by Roy Berko, member, American Theatre Critics Association, Cleveland Critics Circle]

 

 

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