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Steve

A very gay, very entertaining tale of love, lust and Sondheim. 

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Malcolm Gets, Jerry Dixon, Mario Cantone and Matt McGrath in as scene from “Steve” (Photo credit: Monique Carboni)

Malcolm Gets, Jerry Dixon, Mario Cantone and Matt McGrath in as scene from “Steve” (Photo credit: Monique Carboni)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Although its emotional impact is universal, Mark Gerrard’s Steve is a gay play, its themes of (in)fidelity, parenthood, aging and friendship illuminated by a decidedly gay—in particular, a New York gay—point of view.  The writing is full of offhand quips, bitchy comebacks and many, many, many quotes from musicals and plays, with Sondheim coming in as the clear winner.  In fact, if you took out all the carefully aimed appropriations from other plays, the play would probably be half as long!

Moving from one upscale Manhattan site to another and then on to Fire Island—handsome, streamlined sets by Allen Moyer—Steve deals with the marital issues of well-off, handsome homosexuals whose biggest issues involve looks and sex.  Stephen (Malcolm Gets) and his husband of sixteen years, Steven (Matt McGrath), have a son, Zack (never seen).  Their best friends are another—childless—couple, Brian (Jerry Dixon) and Matt (Mario Cantone).

Steven’s best buddy is Carrie (Ashlie Atkinson), who, with Matt, bonded years ago when the three waited tables at a dreadful restaurant.   Carrie is dying of cancer and has recently been abandoned by her longtime lover, Lisa (also never seen).  Cutie-pie Argentinian/dance student Esteban (Francisco Pryor Garat) who first appears as a flirty waiter but then graduates to sexual plaything, enters the fray to stir things up quite decoratively.

Also unseen, but important to the plot is Trainer Steve—so many Stevens!—who is Matt and Brian’s gym trainer.  Hunky and talented Trainer Steve throws a monkey wrench into virtually every relationship on stage.

By accident, Steven, who is in denial about Carrie’s illness, discovers that Stephen has been having an affair, fueled by sexting, with Brian leading to repercussions that include Steven having a fling, Matt and Brian using Trainer Steve as the delicious fixative to their splintered relationship and poor Carrie dispensing comfort and advice, despite having life and death issues of her own to deal with.

Directed at breakneck speed by Cynthia Nixon, the wry comments, clever references to the entire Sondheim oeuvre and the underlying pathos of these men who know, to quote Elaine Stritch, “everybody dies,” registers a heartbeat late, but nevertheless, registers deeply.

Tom Broecker’s costumes and Eric Southern’s lighting both brighten up the proceedings.

The actors are all superb, although occasionally venturing into caricature.  Ashlie Atkinson as the quiet center of this babbling bunch, is particularly moving, particularly in Steven’s reality-avoiding, heartbreaking fantasies.

The other highly publicized play about gay parenting and infidelity, Peter Parnell’s Dada Woof Papa Hot, currently at the Lincoln Center Theater, mines a slightly more serious vein.   Compared to Dada, Steve is superficially more frivolous, but both effectively use humor to make their points.

How this roundelay of quips, insults and quotes would play outside metropolitan urban areas is open to debate, but right now, in New York City, Steven is in exactly the right spot at exactly the right time.

Make sure to arrive at least thirty minutes before curtain time for a surprise bit of extra-curricular fun.

Steve (through January 3, 2016)

The New Group

Linney Theatre, Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets call 212-279-4200 or visit http://www.ticketcentral.com

For more information, visit http://www.thenewgroup.org

Running time: one hours and 45 minutes with no intermission

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Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (270 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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