With echoes of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” and Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” gay filmmaker Myles Yaksich’s “Albatross” (Freestyle) never really soars, but that’s not for lack of trying.
Set in 1959, with flashbacks to what appears to be a beach scene in the 1920s, “Albatross” revolves around two couples from different worlds. Struggling Black novelist Thomas (Romaine Waite, by far the best actor in the cast) and his white, engineer wife Elizabeth (Katherine Gauthier) are on their way to an intimate New England dinner party at the home of stuffy artist Carol (Sarah Orenstein) and psychiatrist Lloyd (David Keeley).
The invitation and introduction were arranged by Elizabeth’s uncle Bertram (David Huband), a gay gallery owner who has been exhibiting Carol’s work. But that’s not the only personal connection Bertram has to the old-money, country-club couple.
Elizabeth, who has been cut off from her family’s money because she married Thomas, likes to think of herself as independent, which she is. A professional woman with a knack for fixing things, including Thomas’ beater of a car which dies on the way to the dinner party, Elizabeth can certainly hold her own. But she may be less prepared than she realizes when faced with Carol and Lloyd.
Lloyd is especially creepy. A bisexual shrink who is having an intimate relationship with younger, gay male patient Kenny (Thom Nyhuus), right under Carol’s nose in his home office, favors the use of LSD in his sessions. Carol and Lloyd are immediately unlikeable, not least of all because they have no qualms about making racist remarks right to Thomas’ face. Joining the racist chorus is Carol’s whack-a-doodle mother Barb (Jill Frappier), who is as concerned about keeping the club white, as she is about the seating arrangement for an upcoming club function.
Between the awkwardness from the moment Thomas and Elizabeth arrive at Carol and Lloyd’s, to the disrespectful dinnertime discussion, to the dosing of Thomas’ drink, and Elizabeth’s unexpected encounter with Kenneth, you don’t need a carving knife to cut the tension. By the time all the secrets come to the surface – including the revelation of the identities of the male couple in the flashbacks – it’s not all that surprising that Carol is suddenly walking around the house with a gun in her hand.
Still, “Albatross” never quite takes wing. It’s almost as if the titular bird is wearing itself around its neck. Much of the ensemble cast comes from a theater background which might explain why “Albatross” has a stagey (not in a good way) feel to it.
Gregg Shapiro is the author of eight books including the poetry chapbook Fear of Muses (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.