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Straight

Twenty-six-year old investment banker Ben likes beer, sports, Emily … and Chris. But what is he to tell Emily?

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Thomas E. Sullivan, Jake Epstein and Jenna Gavigan in a scene from “Straight” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Thomas E. Sullivan, Jake Epstein and Jenna Gavigan in a scene from “Straight” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

The authors of Straight would have you believe that in 2016 26-year-old straight- acting investment banker Ben, living in Boston where same sex marriages have been legal for the last eight years, would still be in the closet. Seeing girlfriend Emily for the last five years since senior year at college, Ben finds sex with men more satisfying than with women, but he does not see himself as gay. He has just begun a sexual relationship with almost 21-year-old Boston College student Chris and he doesn’t want Emily to find out. However, Emily’s roommate is moving out and she wants him to move in. After all, it is five years and what is he waiting for?

Scott Elmegreen and Drew Fornarola’s three-character Straight is elegantly written and equally smartly directed by Andy Sandberg. However, if you find Ben’s ambivalence somewhat false for today you will feel that Straight is out of date and could have been written at any time in the last 20 years. If you don’t see this as a problem, you will be thoroughly entertained by this dramedy.

Jake Epstein and Jenna Gavigan in a scene from “Straight” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Jake Epstein and Jenna Gavigan in a scene from “Straight” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

The play does discuss the issue of being “defined as gay.” Ben tells Chris, “I mean when they find out you hook up with dudes, that becomes who you are, not just something you do.” When Chris objects, Ben counters with, “Everyone wants gay friends. Not everyone wants gay kids.” However, the authors load the dice by making Emily a PhD candidate in genetics and bioinformatics at Harvard. Even when she walks in on Ben and Chris drinking beer in their underwear she still has no suspicion. And the play never brings up the subject of bisexuality.

The play works partly because of its appealing and attractive cast. As the conflicted Ben, distant from his emotions, Jake Epstein, the original “Gerry Goffin” in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, has charisma to spare. He is excellent at behaving differently with Chris and Emily. Making his Off Broadway debut, Thomas E. Sullivan is adorable as the ironic and wry Chris whose every line is a witticism or pun. It is he who brings both life and a remarkable naturalism to the play and the situation. Jenna Gavigan is sweet as the clueless and understanding Emily in an underwritten role. In fact, we learn very little about all three other than their interest in football, beer, college, sex and career.

Thomas E. Sullivan and Jake Epstein in a scene from “Straight” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Thomas E. Sullivan and Jake Epstein in a scene from “Straight” (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

Charlie Corcoran has designed Ben’s enviable all grey-and-white apartment setting showing living room, dining room and kitchen. Grant Yeager is responsible for the lighting design which includes sophisticated recessed lighting. The costumes by Michael McDonald are contemporary chic for these up-to-date people. Will Van Dyke is responsible for the original music between the scenes.

Straight will either strike you as old-fashioned and dated or right up to the minute depending on your point of view. However, the engaging cast made up of Jake Epstein, Jenna Gavigan and, in a remarkable debut, Thomas E. Sullivan makes this worth the price of admission.

Straight (through May 8, 2016)

The Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row

412 W. 42nd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.straighttheplay.com

Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (497 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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