Review: ‘The Homosexuals’ at New Conservatory Theatre Center (***)

(Charles Kruger)

(Rating: ***)

This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)
This reviewer is a voting associate member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

(‘The Homosexuals’ plays at New Conservatory Theatre Center from May 16 through June 28, 2014).

A young man, who may be just coming out, attends a party with a group of gay men who initiate him into the community. Sound familiar? It is the premise of Mart Crowley’s famous, groundbreaking and dated work of nearly half a century ago, “The Boys In The Band”.

It is reworked successfully a striking scene in Philip Dawkins’ “The Homosexuals”, a play that dares to explore contemporary gay male life in terms that are not 100% celebratory or politically correct. Dawkins refreshingly puts real guys on stage, not “supergays”. Like Crowley’s boys, they are doing their best to survive and thrive in a homophobic world that has changed for the better, but is not without echoes of a painful past.

The common dramatic link in the circle of friends portrayed in “The Homosexuals” is young Evan, a remarkably obliging lad from the prairies who manages to work his way successively as lover through the entire circle, without losing his appeal or becoming unsympathetic. It is QUITE an accomplishment.

In the first scene, Evan is breaking up with his latest conquest, the much older Peter, a flamboyant theatre director whose gay persona was formed in pre-liberation days. When Evan tells him, “we’re not homosexuals any more”, Peter responds, “Honey, you can be gay all you want. I am a homosexual”. For some of us (like me, dear reader) who came of age in the complicated pre-AIDS 70’s, this is refreshing.

Robert Rushin (l) and Mat Weimer (R) as Evan and Peter in New Conservatory Theatre Center's production of Philip Dawkins' "The Homosexuals". Photo Credit: Lois Tema.
Robert Rushin (l) and Mat Weimer (R) as Evan and Peter in New Conservatory Theatre Center’s production of Philip Dawkins’ “The Homosexuals”. Photo Credit: Lois Tema.

In subsequent scenes, we see Evan in relation to each of the men, moving backwards over a decade. We see how he has been formed by these various intimacies, and how each of the men and each of their relationships has been formed by the common experience of being homosexual. The depth of this commonality is revealed more and more as the inner lives of these men are laid bare to our voyeuristic gaze.

This is a lovely play.

Robert Rushin, as Evan, does an excellent job of showing how Evan is different over time and with each of the different men. We can see how his maturing and changing character moves him from relationship to relationship without having to conclude that he is merely a cad.

Matt Weimer’s aging theatre director, Peter, at first seems to be a throwback to an earlier stereotype of what it means to be gay, but we gradually discover in him a more sophisticated understanding and sympathy for his younger lover than is at first apparent.

Among the rest of the cast, Daniel Redmond as British Mark and Alyssa Stone as self-described fag hag Tam are particularly amusing.

For further information, click here.

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“The Homosexuals” by Philip Dawkins, produced by New Conservatory Theatre Center. Director: Arturo Catricala. Scenic Design: Yusuke Soi. Lighting Design: Christian Mejia. Costume Design: Wes Crain. 

Colin: Scott Cox. Mark: Keith Marshall. British Mark: Daniel Redmond. Evan: Robert Rushin. Michael: Gabriel Ross. Peter: Matt Weimer.

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