Review by Scott Whitmont
Set between 2006 and 2011, Jordan Seavey’s award-winning play Homos, Or Everyone in America is epic in its scope examining relationships and gay rights in 21st century America. Presented now at Newtown’s New Theatre as part of the Mardi Gras Festival, it is a welcome tour de force for ‘homos’ and straights alike.
Our two unnamed protagonists, “The Academic” (Edward O’Leary) and “The Writer” (Reuben Solomon) first meet up in a New York bar. As they exchange views on queer life, love and politics, their mutual attraction is obvious. What ensues is 100+ minutes of uninterrupted gripping and passionate interchange, their arguments raw with emotion, moving between intimacy, gravitas and humour. The pace doesn’t flag an instant - a testament to the talent of director Alex Kendal Robson.
The chopping and changing between non-chronological and sometimes repeated short scenes takes time to warm to, but the arc of the two men’s relationship and the passion with which they deliver their tale, certainly soon wins over the appreciative audience.
A plethora of issues facing couples both queer and straight are navigated - from drinking and drugs to dating apps, moving in together, lust, sex and the potential of threesomes (much to the horror of The Academic). The subject of anti-gay violence inevitably raises its head together with the AIDS epidemic and the governmental response to it. At times, the analysis of these various subjects is light-hearted and at others, deeply considered.
Clearly, navigating homo relationships can be fraught. Though this passionate message was expertly delivered, the small space could have done without quite so much shouting. That aside, with their intensity and sensitivity, Solomon and O’Leary shine. They skillfully communicate the ups and downs of ambition, disappointment, pain, joy, loneliness, desire and loving connection. In this they are more than ably assisted by an equally talented ensemble supporting cast. Laila, the thoughtful Lush store assistant is played empathetically by Sonya Kerr while Dan (Axel Berecry) demonstrates perfect timing and is often distractedly mesmerising as The Writer’s old school friend and possible ‘third wheel’ to the relationship.
The whole cast deftly assists with regular stage resets as the space morphs seamlessly between a bar, the bedroom, a hospital room and the Lush bar - evidence of the talent of Set Designer Zara Pittoni and Stage Manager Lilith-Elise Salt-McMahon Turvey. Well-chosen music clips and appropriate sound effects are interwoven throughout the production by Sound Designer David Wilson.
Homos… leaves one questioning how far we have come, navigating gay life, identity and relationships in the last 20 years. Its scope examining community, love and life in our times, however, is universal. Running until March 9, take your loved ones for a guaranteed stimulating night of good theatre.