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 However, if you find Ben’s ambivalence somewhat false for today you will feel that Straight is out of date and could have been written at any time in the last 20 years.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.
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.
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