By Jordan Seavey; Directed by Mike Donahue
Produced by Labyrinth Theater Company
Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 11.27.16
Bank Street Theater, 155 Bank Street
by Keith Paul Medelis on 11.9.16
Michael Urie and Robin De Jesús in Homos, or Everyone in America. Photo by Monique Carboni.
BOTTOM LINE: An out-of-place ending lets down Homos, or Everyone in America.
Dane Laffrey’s scenic design for Homos, or Everyone in America feels absent. "Where is the set?" I heard a patron ask an usher upon entering. "It’s all around you." Comprised of limited "stage" space and played out upon aisles and architectural pillars, Homos, or Everyone in America is indeed all around us, assimilating in ways that would not have been conceivable at the beginning of this new millennium.
Jordan Seavey’s play tracks these changes using the vehicle of one couple, known to us only as The Academic (Robin De Jesús) and The Writer (Michael Urie), as they meet, fall in love, build a life, and fall out of love in a cycle that feels all too typical. Their first date is charming, their sexual education of each other is adorable, appropriately sexy, and humorous. The troubles they find regarding the attractive other man “Dan” is a quibble right from the pages of my own life, its resolution all too real. And their journey is tracked through their use of social media. The two meet on Friendster, now a footnote and punch line of the early twenty-first century, and we hear of Myspace (a lot), Facebook, and the inevitable Grindr.
Jessica Pabst keeps The Academic and The Writer in a neutral, classic costume throughout, fully realizing the people that come and go from their lives—Aaron Costa Ganis and a fabulous Stacey Sargeant, beaming with empathy, humor, and grace when it’s most needed. Director Mike Donahue sculpts this play, using every corner and level allowed within these tight quarters, intricately weaving this story of struggle, love, and assimilation.
Around every corner, I wanted to like Homos. Urie’s performance is tremendous—honest, truthful and flawed, and deeply endearing. The elegance and simplicity of this compact play reflect universality and specificity, though there’s trouble here too. Its concise, shortened dialogue, reflected and perfected in the writing of Caryl Churchill and Harold Pinter, feels so forced here that it betrays the form, contradicting its purpose to reflect the fractured nature of ordinary speech. Instead the language takes on a disjointed quality that betrays the performances of Urie and De Jesús, each moment feeling disconnected in service of the annoying poetry. Donahue has the actors deliver many of their lines with a tone that lilts upward at the end of the sentence. You know, the kind of thing you hear in a high school drama class when your line ends in a dash and you’re too amateur to fill in what could be next? Yeah, that thing. And its everywhere in Homos. Robin De Jesús seems out of place here too: he reads too young for this character of determined force and he recedes into the background opposite Urie. And his lilted speaking pattern is more pronounced than Urie's, adding to my difficulties.
Despite this, Homos remains mostly agreeable until it is betrayed by an ending that feels of a different time and era. On the way out of the theater I overheard two unrelated conversations that can be summed up as “why did it have to end that way?” The payoff feels wrong; the drama unnecessary. The title suggests an American assimilation with gay relationships; Seavey’s play offers this to us in an important way, except for this ending which leaves me, and apparently others, restless and unsatisfied. Urie and De Jesús seem to agree, as they aren’t able to reach the kind of emotional cathartic purge that this conclusion asks of them. Perhaps we homos aren’t like everyone in America and thus deserve this recalling of the tragedies we all can suffer as homos. But this homo wants optimism and strength; unfortunately Homos is reticent to deliver.
(Homos, or Everyone in America plays at Bank Street Theater, 155 Bank Street, through November 27, 2016. Performances are Tuesdays at 7, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8, and Sundays at 7. Tickets are $30-$40 and are available labtheater.org or by calling 212-513-1080.)
Homos, or Everyone in America is by Jordan Seavey. Directed by Mike Donahue. Scenic design is by Dane Laffrey. Costume design is by Jessica Pabst. Lighting design is by Scott Zielinski. Sound and original compositions are by Daniel Kluger. Sound design is by Lee Kinney. Production Stage Manager is Hannah Woodward.
The cast features Aaron Costa Ganis, Robin De Jesús, Stacey Sargeant, and Michael Urie.