It’s Gay Pride Day in New York City -- the last for Michael (Johnathn F. McClain) and Tom (Peter Smith), because after seven years together they’re buying a house in Nyack and leaving the city. Meanwhile, their apartment on Christopher Street becomes the perfect parade-viewing perch for an assortment of their friends, including the newly out young Joe (David Turner), wise-cracking HIV+ entertainment writer Brad (Arnie Burton), and the unimaginably ancient (he’s in his fifties!) opera buff Charles (Donald Corren).
Does this sound like every gay-guys-in-a-house play since
Boys in the Band? That’s the idea. The characters in Jonathan Tolins’s
The Last Sunday in June self-consciously joke about all the ways their impromptu gathering resembles a typical gay play, complete with the cameo appearance by a shirtless hunk (Matthew Wilkas) and a theatrical truth-telling device (in this case, a noisy juicer that serves as lie detector). And as one of them says, "There’s always a character who everybody hates and the audience wonders, ‘Who is this asshole? Why don’t they ask him to leave?’" That would be James (Mark Setlock), Tom’s ex, author of a universally panned gay novel called
Circuit Boy who announces that he’s so fed up with gay life that he’s getting married to a female friend (Susan Pourfar).
Tolins, who wrote Twilight of the Golds and was a writer-coproducer
on the first season of the American Queer as Folk series, deserves a lot of credit for crafting a play that brings up a slew of provocative issues very much alive among gay men in New York these days. The apparently universal insecurity about being left out of the gay community. The wounds caused by body snobbery. The difficulty of sustaining a long-term relationship that’s both sexually alive and emotionally honest. James especially questions what gay life holds for him besides endless opportunities for anonymous sex. (That he’s a deeply unpleasant and unhappy personality makes his critique all the more complicated.)
What’s frustrating is that Tolins can’t resist
formulaic TV writing, which knows only two modes: setup for laugh-line, and high-pitched melodramatic conflict. The attractive actors handle the comedy well but tend to screechiness in battle, most notably McClain’s Michael and Smith‘s Tom. This is one of those plays that whets your appetite but leaves you hungry for insight and depth.
April 1, 2003