Brandon Haagenson and David Merten
By David Schultz
entering The Loft at The Davenport Theatre I had to walk onstage to cross to my
assigned seat. This Black Box mini theatre has a mere 99 seats. The stage is
centered with seats facing each other. In the center of the stage sits a square
boxing rink swathed in white sheets floor to ceiling. Sinuous music surrounds
the atmosphere with a deep base undercurrent. As the lights go down, moans and
orgasmic utterances emanate from within…as the climax reaches its zenith, the
white sheets fall to the floor, exposing three young men, naked and exhausted
from their sexual roundelay. Two men in their early thirties Josh (Brandon
Haagenson) and Alex (Joe Chisholm) are a married couple that regularly enjoy
threesomes; men they usually find on gay apps online. This evening their “trick
du jour” is a young twink named Darius (David Merten). The men seem to have
enjoyed themselves and it seems to be going along as per usual. But the sexual
passion segues into affection and an attraction that strays from the usual path
that Josh and Alex have been accustomed to having; and it soon rears its ugly
head. With a benevolent nod Alex seems to have no qualms about his lover Josh
making an afternoon play date with Darius later in the week.
oh-so-shocking…. though not really that shocking scenario is the set up in
playwright S. Asher Gelman’s new play. One modern twist, the married couple is
expecting a child with a surrogate in a few months. Underlying unspoken fears
abound with this life-changing event. Any savvy theatergoer or moviegoer can
see where this is heading of course. But nonetheless the machinations of plot,
mingled with excellent performances from the trio still create an ineffable
tension throughout its brief 90-minute running time.
Chisom, Brandon Haagenson and David
Merten photos by Mati Gelman
and Josh have been together for five years, and seem to communicate with each
other both verbally and non-verbally with innate knowledge of each other. So it
comes as a shock to the system that after a short time, with Josh spending
inordinately more quality sexual time with Darius at his small pad, things
start to get messy with slowly roiling jealousy coming to the forefront. Josh
is the more needy of the two, since Alex shuns his puppy dog neediness. Josh’s
emotional needs are not being accommodated as it was in the early stages of his
relationship, and hence Darius fills a void that has been there for a long
time. Darius enjoys the attention, and is secretly envious of what appears, at
least on the outside to be a perfect union of his newfound couple. Alex has slowly
imperceptibly withdrawn from Josh, both psychologically and physically so the
open marriage arrangement suits him more than he realizes…. until of course the
realization that what he wanted all along was right next to him. It is
mysterious why Darius would stay in this ménage, since at heart he knows that
it is doomed to fail.
short scenes the men grapple with trying to figure out what can possibly come
of this untenable situation.
Designer Ann Beyersdorfer cunningly works wonders with the postage size set.
The center stage is deconstructed and moved about by the three actors throughout
the production. The center stage bed is moved, and various black boxes become tables
and chairs and a massage table. On two or three occasions the inner center
section becomes a shower with actual running water cascading down with the men
soaping and washing their naked bodies between sexual encounters. Even though
full nudity is on display, Afterglow attempts rather unsteadily to tear
away at the surface of these confused men and decipher an inner truth. The
melodramatic material seems compelling while watching it unfold before you.
in retrospect, in the inevitable morning after, it seems to be just a variation
of any typical tale of an affair that starts fast and ends with a crash. There
is something simultaneously comforting and disturbing watching the scenario yet
again. The kicker is that the conflict of the participants involved is so
compelling that you are in a suspended state of not really knowing what will
happen at the finale. The play ends with a freeze-frame moment, leaving it up
to each viewer to decide the outcome of this fractured, sex-fueled trio.
at The Loft at the Davenport Theatre
West 45th Street between 8th & 9th Ave.
through July 1st