Making its European debut at the Finborough Theatre, Jordan Seavey’s 2016 play is an examination of the ideological conflicts that underpin modern relationships between gay men. Following the history of its two main characters (The Writer and The Academic) between 2006 and 2011 in New York, the play is a product of its time and location.
Woven through the confrontations that line their relationship are the topics of racism, drug use, monogamy et al. The discussions are often had in direct opposition to heteronormative constructs of America on the brink of marriage equality.
Approaching the subject from clashing world views, The Writer (Harry McEntire) embodies the black & white passion of a suppressed community over-asserting themselves in compensation for years lost to silence, whilst The Academic (Tyrone Huntley) laments on the grey intersectionality that does not allow every gay man equal privileges to do so.
Seeping with the scent of LUSH bath bombs (which sit in a tiered display against a single wall), the audience is placed in the round, facing the sand-covered floor. In the corner of the raised platform at the centre, sits a red record player.
Homos, or everyone in America continually challenges and questions – both its characters and the environment they inhabit; though rarely are those questions answered. Seavey’s play seeks to only offer a place for the audience to choose their own position vis-à-vis the arguments offered. Of which there are many.
The tirade of conflict soon becomes burdensome. Oddly staged, there is a frustrating lack of intimacy between Huntley and McEntire. Resulting from staging choices of imparting unnecessary distance between the characters and the indifference towards their environment. Beyond assumptions and barely visible metaphors, the sand is never truly used or accounted for.
In tandem with Huntley and McEntire’s unnecessarily heightened delivery, the circles of attention they are holding extend way past the minuteness of the space. Sections that call for tenderness and quiet seem insincere, leading to an overall lack in depth of tone.
Without a firm belief in the truthfulness of their relationship, it is difficult to care about the outcome when it begins to undergo its many tests. Even the revelation in the last section of the play fails to hold the gravity it deserves, when the emotional foundation of its characters is unstable and restraint of their actors yielding.
Amongst this, there are moments of genuine connection between Huntley and McEntire: from the subtle shifts of gaze that gently study the face before them; to the way they hold their body in the periphery of the other. Using this familiar language, they establish their intentions without uttering a word. It is these threads that support the production from buckling under itself.
Non-linear, the plot shifts and repeats, each time edified by new context. This allows Seavey’s writing to gain a consistent pacing. Sadly, Josh Seymour’s direction does very little to respond to this structure creatively. Repetitive transitions of rewinding movement lacked sharpness or adequate support from the lighting.
This lack of clarity and focus leads to an overall blandness. Leaving the cast unsupported, with inconsistent musical underscoring and confused lighting, the voice of the production becomes distorted. The through line remains obscured, and the play is not allowed to move beyond that of a relationship drama.
A moment in which both characters storm out of the room is perhaps the productions most striking. Their discordance lingers in the silence, and the audience is left to weigh the fragments. The play leaves little room for the audience to breathe and sit with what has been put before them.
Homos, or Everyone in America is playing at Finborough Theatre until 1 September 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.
Photo: Finsborough Theatre Website