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you don’t have to do anything

A story that explores a gay man’s coming of age from the time he was in seventh grade until graduating from college.

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Andrea Abello, Will Dagger and Yaron Lotan in a scene from Ryan Drake’s “you don’t have to do anything” at HERE Arts Center (Photo credit: Maria Baranova)

[avatar user=”Scotty Bennett” size=”96″ align=”left”] Scotty Bennett, Critic[/avatar]

Memory is a tricky thing. What a person may recall from a few days in the past is more likely to be accurate than one from many years ago. The sheer volume of information being processed daily can create confusion in how an individual’s brain compartmentalizes all that is encountered. If added to that are psychological issues, such as emotional trauma, the memories that are recalled may not resemble the dynamics of what created those recollections.

you don’t have to do anything written by Ryan Drake is a story that explores a gay man’s coming of age from the time he was in seventh grade until graduating from college. It is set in the period when cell phone and computer messaging were becoming more prevalent. The central theme of the production is the psycho-social impact of homosexuality from a young man’s adolescence into his early twenties. Ryan Dobrin’s direction is effective, given the nuanced presentation of the central theme with dialogue that suggests misinterpretation of events and misunderstandings of emotional content.

Drake has written a play that requires close attention to the subtlety of the characters’ interactions to gain insight into the nuances of the subject matter. This play requires the viewer to go beyond the surface impression of a “coming of age” story and separate what is real from what may be a psychologically perceived reality. This is not a show for everyone; it is for an audience interested in being challenged by a thought-provoking theatrical experience.

Andrea Abello and Yaron Lotan in a scene from Ryan Drake’s “you don’t have to do anything” at HERE Arts Center (Photo credit: Maria Baranova)

Teddy (Yaron Lotan) is the lead character who also acts as a narrator, filling in the gaps as the timeline shifts. His story starts with a prologue that provides clues to his state of mind as an adult as a base for assessing his transformation over time. The scene shifts to his first day of seventh grade in a new school. As he waits to enter the school, a boy named Clark (Will Dagger) walks up and begins to interact with Teddy.

Lotan is believable as a thirteen-year-old seventh grader, but Dagger presents an interesting contrast. Dagger’s character is two years older because he started school at seven. Dagger has a fully grown mustache and a few weeks of beard growth. His affect is also not that of a teenager but is more polished, as would be expected of a more mature man. He maintains this characterization throughout the show, even in the face of the more age-specific performance of Teddy. At first, this seems like a misstep in Dobrin’s direction, but in the end, the characterization fits with the thematic narrative.

Another character fits into the story as a touchstone of teenage social norms. Enid, effectively played by Andrea Abello, is the gossipy girl-buddy of Teddy’s. She is the one who brings in the silliness of teenage sexual awakening and elements of the social stratification and cliquish behaviors of affluent kids in an exclusive private school. She is, in a sense, the voice of reason that tries to bring clarity to Teddy’s emotional confusion and his fascination/obsession with Clark.

Miles Elliot and Yaron Lotan in a scene from Ryan Drake’s “you don’t have to do anything” at HERE Arts Center (Photo credit: Maria Baranova)

A critical component of this ensemble is Miles Elliot. He plays several ancillary internet characters and one actual character relating to an encounter Teddy had outside a bar while in college. Elliot’s characters are the mostly nameless, featureless chorus that Teddy interacts with on the internet as he searches for a connection with his sense of self. In the encounter outside the bar, Elliot provides a solid frame against which Lotan can fully expose the critical elements of Teddy’s psychology that will guide the rest of the play.

The scenic and property design by Cat Raynor makes effective use of the small black box theater with one principal set, a bedroom, upstage at the back wall of the theater. All the other settings are created by strategically placed chairs, benches, and projection screens. The lighting design by Bentley Heydt and Molly Tiede strongly complements the sets and effectively moves the action, making the space seem larger than it is in reality. These designs effectively reduce the distraction of the challenging sightlines in the theater. The music and sound design by Carsen Joenk, video projection design by Zack Lobel, and costume design by Christopher Vergara are the final elements that complete the staging.

you don’t have to do anything (through February 23, 2024)

Sublet series@HERE

Dorothy B. Williams Theatre at HERE Arts Center, 146 Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-647-0202 or visit

Running time: 85 minutes without an intermission

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About Scotty Bennett (80 Articles)
Scotty Bennett is a retired businessman who has worn many hats in his life, the latest of which is theater critic. For the last twelve years he has been a theater critic and is currently the treasurer of the American Theatre Critics Association and a member of the International Association of Theatre Critics. He has been in and around the entertainment business for most of his life. He has been an actor, director, and stage hand. He has done lighting, sound design, and set building. He was a radio disk jockey and, while in college ran a television studio and he even knows how to run a 35mm arc lamp projector.

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