Saturday, May 20, 2006

Don Scime: The David Dance

Don Scime: The David Dance (2003)

Seen at the Trumpet Vine Theater Company, Arlington VA 20006

Cast: Don Scime, Liesyl Franz, Jon Hefner, Anne Paine West, Elena Flores

Director: Vincent Worthington

This play really goes into the philosophical innards of the cultural wars like few dramas do, and with quite a lot of didactic brilliance. At the same time, it is compelling, largely because the protagonist, David, comes off as such a strong thirty-something adult male lead. The play, even on stage, moves around. It is easy to imagine it as a film, with winter locations around Buffalo, NY and then the sugar cane country in Brazil.

There is a set up. David Patrone (Don Scime) is a gay radio talk show host, and he gets into a midnight debate with syndicated religious right host June Handley (Anne Paine West). She seems to be pummeling him down, not so much with the Biblical passages (he can answer those, with David and Jonathan and Ruth and Naomi) but with the cultural thing, that complementarity and "legacy"- based heterosexuality is the proper way to getting in to taking care of people (this is essentially the Vatican’s philosophy). But David’s older sister Kate (Liesyl Franz) has decided to adopt an orphan from a convent in Brazil as a single parent. Now many states actually encourage adoption by single parents because the need is so great and in practice there is a shortage of heterosexually married potential parents for minority babies. Kate is a financial professional and wants to fulfill her life before it is too late. When she goes down to Brazil she is killed in a plane crash. She has suggested that David share the parenting, at least as an uncle or perhaps an attending godparent. In the mean time, David has paid visits to a Catholic hospital and had some practice holding infants that poop. (I am reminded by all this -- the nun is played by Ms. West -- of the epic film The Nun's Story). I think we know that the flow of the play will demand that he take on the responsibility of becoming a parent. It is not really a totally voluntary choice, and that is a point that has profound political and ethical implications to think about. The young playwright obviously wants us to get this.

There is a lot of other material in the play, in which events are sometimes present out of time sequence or as flashbacks. His show is threatened with ratings cancellation – a common issue in talk radio. (This reminds me of a talk radio program by gay host Scott Peck in Washington in 1993, during the gays in the military debate – his dad was a Marine colonel who outed him before Congress—and Scott’s show lasted about ten months; his book, published by Scribner in 1995, was All American Boy). His boyfriend Chris (Jon Heffner) keeps him going, as does the sister, who in one touching scene finds him outdoors partially nude and gaybashed. Kate has sent her piano to Brazil, so that the girl learns to play, especially music by Schumann, as in the “Album for the Young.”

There is a lot here to make a great movie. If I could make it, I’d want to throw in the Schumann Second Symphony in the closing credits.

Paul Donnelly: Whole Against the Sky

Paul Donnelly: Whole Against the Sky (2006)

Cast: Jon Townson (as Jack Rheingold), Ellie Nicoll (Linda, his sister), Jean Hudson Miller (their mother), Gerald B. Browning (Linda’s husband), Danile Mascarello (Dennis), David Drake (Colin)

Presented by Trumpet Vine Theater Company:

I think of a live stage play like is as a little bit like a 3-D movie. There is one set, that doubles as a home in Cincinnati, and an apartment in Washington (with some rearrangement), but the play has lots of monologues and retrospects from the individual characters, giving it somewhat the Lars Van Tier “dogma” effect. The play is in two parts, the first half a somewhat meandering sonata of a gay lawyer’s visit to his mother’s home in Cincinnati, in 1993. (Curiously the politics of the new Clinton administration with respect to gay issues is never mentioned.) She pounces on him for undomestic habits, like eating out of the can. He recounts his relationship with Billy (not shown), who has died of AIDS, and in one soliloquy recounts the experience graphically. He has a lover Dennis, who seems to sit on the sidelines. His married sister seems to bond with him. Part two is more cohesive, sort of like a musical fugue. Now, in 1995, Jack lives in Washington DC with a boyish lover Colin, and Mother shows up uninvited and insists on staying because she is Mother. When she starts to bond with Colin, she threatens the relationship between Jack and Colin, as Jack has to deal with his domain-like possessiveness of Colin, even as his own mother is also a possessive, psychologically masculine person. Jack remains fully dressed the whole time, but the other three male characters become much more exposed, allowing some visual contrasts along rather stereotyped lines. The dialogue plays the cultural family values off with many subtle observations. Linda's husband "brags" about becoming a car salesman, admitting that the occupation has a bad social reputation, but seeming to accept the idea that hucksterism is right for him because now he will have a family to support.

Index entries that have disappeared:

Bill's drama and music reviews

Marc Wolf's "Another American: Asking and Telling"

Chris Wells: Liberty!