Theatre 22 presents “The Pride”

How much has homosexual life changed in the past half century? Enormously, and this award-winning play gives you chapter and verse. “The Pride” by Alexi Kaye Campbell, explores homosexual life in England first in the 1950s and then as it is today.

Most of Act I takes place in 1958. Here, the successful Philip is married to Sylvia, and their lives appear to be just as normal married heterosexual lives should be. But when Oliver, a writer of children’s books, comes to their London flat to confer with Sylvia who’s illustrating his book, the air is quickly charged with sexual energy, and it’s not between Sylvia and Oliver. Both men feel it; both appear to know that it will lead to secret assignations. “Secret” that’s the key word. In 1958 it could be no other way.

Most of Act II takes place in 2008. Here we have other Philips and other Olivers. No subterfuge here. One needn’t hide one’s sexual preference. There’s no need to sneak around, and, in effect, lead two lives. Sexual repression is, in much of western culture, for the most part a thing of the past. But, with all the newfound acceptance of homosexuality, the ability to be who you are openly, even flamboyantly, life is still not perfect. The Oliver in this Act participates in the new freedoms to the fullest extent possible. He nourishes himself on casual pickups. Yet something’s missing. The playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell suggests here that a life of casual sex lacking emotional commitment is really a rather empty life.

There’s a raw honesty in this play concerning gay life past and present. For the most part, freedom has replaced secrecy and shame. But, as in all lives, what you think will work too often doesn’t.

Director Corey McDaniel stages this production with the audience on three sides of the stage. So it’s a close encounter for all. Fine actors play the three main characters. Andre Nelson creates the Philips as successful men with all the reserve of the well-educated class who distance themselves, it would seem, in an effort of self-protection. Trevor Young Marston’s Oliver is both needy and brash. You sense his loneliness, his dislike of himself. And Angela DiMarco as the woman in a play about men, knows more than she lets on, hurts more than she admits.

Through Nov. 19, at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle, (206-257-2203 or theatre22.org).

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