Photo credit: Monique Carboni
Written by Mark Gerrard
directed by Cynthia Nixon
As marriage equality becomes the norm, playwrights are turning their attention to all the attendant phenomena of matrimony. Though it ends on a hopeful note, Mark Gerrard’s seriocomic portrait of a middle aged same-sex couple details the inertia, dissatisfaction and friction that have always made monogamy a challenging proposition.
Steve (Matt McGrath), seems like a guy who has it all: a killer apartment, a rich husband, a healthy child, a cadre of good friends with whom he sits around the piano singing show tunes or trades bon mots in trendy restaurants. But beneath the veneer of domestic bliss, there is trouble in this particular paradise. Steve’s little son Zack has been misbehaving, his close friend Carrie (Ashlie Atkinson), is beginning to lose her battle with cancer, and his husband Stephen (Malcolm Gets) has been “sexting” with another man. Deciding that two can play at the infidelity game, Steve has a fling with young Argentine waiter Esteban (Francisco Pryor Garat). Meanwhile Steve’s friends Matt (Mario Cantone) and Brian (Jerry Dixon) are rebooting their relationship by having a hot personal trainer move in with them. As time goes by, everything worsens, including Steve’s midlife crisis and Carrie’s medical condition. Still, longtime friendships prove indestructible, and Steve and company, their sense of humor intact through it all, find a way to navigate life’s inevitable changes.
Director Cynthia Nixon draws charming performances from an adroitly cast ensemble. Allen Moyer’s sets and Eric Southern’s lighting evoke an elegant but confining Manhattan and, in the finale, a breezy, sprawling Fire Island. When it’s cooking, the script delivers a potent cocktail of devastating wit and rueful reflection on the ravages of time. Structurally, though, it feels a bit lopsided. Self-absorbed Steve gets a disproportionate amount of stage time for what he has to say, and the pace stalls at times when he reiterates that he is feeling discontented and uncertain of his future. The deadpan Stephen is far funnier and more sympathetic as he struggles, however imperfectly, to hold his family together. In one brilliantly written scene, Stephen stands before his Christmas tree juggling a call from his mom, another call from Steve’s Mom, lewd texts from Brian, and impatient texts from Cassie, who waits with Zack for the promised ice cream that Steve was supposed to bring but has, being Steve, forgotten (and judging from the spent look on Steve’s face as he staggers in, that’s not all he’s forgotten). Like a 21st Century edition of Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory, Stephen’s plight encapsulates the absurdities of life in our multitasking age. Gerrard sets the writing bar high in scenes like these, and doesn’t always succeed in matching it. In its current draft, STEVE is certainly worthwhile: an evening spent in good company. With a bit of revision, it could be much more.
STEVE continues through January 3, 2016 at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036. https://www.ticketcentral.com/thenewgroup/online/