Writer: Jordan Seavey
Director: Josh Seymour
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
This tidy, but talky, examination of gay life in America is the latest addition to plays about LGBTQ+ people being shown in London this summer. It’s a ripe period with the Young Vic’s The Inheritance and Fun Home, the White Bear’s A Little Hero and the King’s Head Theatre’s whole season of queer plays during August. The Finborough’s offering, Homos, or Everyone in America, is the most cerebral of the lot.
Set in Brooklyn between the years 2006 and 2011, straddling both the Bush and Obama administrations, Jordan Seavey’s play employs a relationship between two men, named ominously, The Writer and The Academic, to act as a microcosm for American gay life itself. They first meet on Friendster, an early social networking site, and then meet at a bar, and even though The Writer makes a fool of himself, their relationship is cemented. We witness their highs and lows, and a lot of their arguments.
Tyrone Huntley, an actor more known for musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar, for which he received an Olivier nomination, and Memphis: The Musical, plays The Academic, studying for his PhD in media studies. He’s mostly optimistic about the future, and looks forward to the day when he can legally marry another man. His boyfriend, The Writer, played by Harry McEntire, is more paranoid, crying over 9/11whenever he gets drunk, worrying that a power-cut is a Taliban plot. He thinks that marriage is an old-dated, heteronormative concept.
Despite their differing views on marriage, and the sterling efforts of Huntley and McEntire, the two characters often seem indistinguishable. They both talk incessantly, drop in quotes from Othello, refer to writers such as Joan Didion and Larry Kramer and argue about New York gentrification and the meaning of literature. The Academic proclaims that The Writer is a gay Woody Allen, but, in fact, both men are doppelgangers of Allen’s nervous, paranoid, self-hating characters. The dialogue is always intellectual, but there’s a sense that Seavey is peacocking here.
Still, the humour keeps the play buoyant, and its structure, episodes of their relationship performed out of chronological order, ensures that the audience has to work too, slowly interlocking the scenes to make sense of it. Director Josh Seymour’s decision to have the show played in the round, with the audience squeezed on benches against the wall, brings some urgency to Homos which, at a little under two hours long, is played without an interval. Lee Newby’s set is a bit of a mystery though, with the actors being forced to stand upon an overflowing sandpit. The Lush bath products displayed in the corners, heavily scenting the auditorium, do eventually make sense, but the sand, apart from a visual reference to the ‘sands of time’, seems an odd choice here.
Another mystery is the title of the play: perhaps, with gay marriage firmly ensconced within American law, gay people are now becoming like everybody in America? Or perhaps the issues raised in this play are universal, and that everyone should see it? Despite its intellectual posturing, this is, indeed, a play that everyone should see.
Runs until 1 September 2018 | Image: Marc Brenner