As a NY Daily News reviewer points out, “the freedom to be out and proud is the stuff parades are made of, but it’s no guarantee of a happy love life.”
It is that central theme which beats at the heart of “The Pride,” an intriguing drama about gay life in England before and after the ‘60s sexual revolution.
The tribulations of gay men, carnal and otherwise, are examined with considerable emotion in the play, creatively crafted by Alexi Kaye Campbell.
It opened last Tuesday to positive reviews at off-Broadway’s Lucille Lortel Theatre, on famed Christopher Street in Lower Manhattan.
Reviewed by Erik Haagensen for Back Stage, he called the production: “intelligent and imaginative, it grabs your attention from the start and holds it for the next two hours and 20 minutes.”
The play starts in the homophobic ’50s. Philip (Hugh Dancy), a closeted real-estate agent, and his wife, Sylvia (Andrea Riseborough), an artist, are entertaining Oliver (Ben Whishaw), who’s written the book she’s illustrating. Along with plumes of cigarette smoke, taboo sexual tensions between the men hang in air.
Just as you settle in for a polite, uptight vintage melodrama, the plot jumps ahead five decades. Now, Philip is an openly gay photographer who’s ditched his boyfriend Oliver, a journalist and sex addict who’s not hard-wired for monogamy. Sylvia is Oliver’s BFF. The play toggles back and forth to show how things have (and haven’t) evolved in a half-century in Britannia.
The Daily News reviewer called it a “handsomely acted and designed production,” saying the American premiere “does the play more than proud.”
AP drama critic Michael Kuchwara is equally enthusiastic, calling the play “an impressive first effort by Campbell,” adding that the production is “impeccable” and the actors’ performances “astonishing.”
“The drama fares better in the closeted years, primarily because the tension of the closet produces an inconsolable sorrow that is extinguished or at least lessened when gay pride is allowed to flourish in all its rainbow glory,” Kuchwara writes.
On her Huffington Post blog, Regina Weinrich praised the performances of the cast as well, stating the actors on stage perform with agility and grace. She noted that the play was more about dealing with “loneliness than pride,” reflecting on life in the closet for many gay men years ago.
“In the end,” though Kuchwara says, “emancipation comes with a price, a cost that 21st-century gay men seem to acknowledge even as they are aware of how far they have traveled in those five turbulent decades.”
Opens in Manhattan on
Christopher Street, Off Broadway