Reviews Off-Broadway Published 23 November 2015

Steve

Pershing Square Signature Center - Romulus Linney Courtyard Theater ⋄ 3rd November - 27th December 2015

Midlife malaise.

Richard Patterson
Credit: Monique Carboni

Credit: Monique Carboni

As Mark Gerrard’s new comedy Steve begins, Mario Cantone as Matt sings “Never Never Land” from Peter Pan. It’s a fitting way to begin a play about contemporary gay life in New York, which finds so many gay men caught between the warring poles of image-obsessed immaturity (“Peter Pan syndrome”) and the fairly new reality of gay family life.

For longtime partners Steven (a stay-at-home dad, played by Matt McGrath) and Stephen (a lawyer, played by Malcolm Gets), it’s that duality that drives a rift between them, tearing them apart despite their united front as parents. Their love life as a couple collides unexpectedly with that of their close friends Matt and Brian (Jerry Dixon) as the four of them simultaneously deal with the fact that their close friend Carrie (Ashlie Atkinson) – the glue that binds them together – is dealing with a very serious bout with cancer.

Humor and a healthy dose of musical theatre references get them through tough times – characters are constantly quoting showtunes – their quips occasionally assuming a harder edge as the outward comfort of their lives reveals its painful side. Steven and Stephen’s enduring love, it turns out, isn’t quite as pure as it once was, thanks to the temptations of the modern age, which has evolved immeasurably since their heyday – especially as concerns sexting, which plays a crucial role.

Directed by Cynthia Nixon, the New Group’s slick production moves fleetly and has its charms, especially its top-notch cast and the pleasure of basking in Gerrard’s crisp, realistic dialogue, which fizzes with an almost modern-Cowardian wit. Ashlie Atkinson as Carrie in particular gives a finely-tuned performance as the friend that holds together her group of cohorts and yet struggles to make the most of her own life, especially in the face of grave illness. Atkinson’s no-nonsense take on Carrie grounds a play that might otherwise drown in its own excesses, bogged down by perhaps too many musical theatre quotes and witty barbs.

The production also features the most effective use of on stage text messaging that I’ve seen to date and captures the midlife malaise of gay men in their forties with a tartly observant eye.

When it comes time to truly transcend its light touch and pack a punch dramatically, Steve feels a bit slight despite its charms. Steve lacks the dramatic heft to join the pantheon of “great gay plays” (or even great gay comedies), but Gerard shows promise as a writer working to capture the warmth and humor of gay life. His characters are pleasant company – even as they’re cutting into one another. That, it turns out, is enough to make for an enjoyable evening at the theatre, even if it’s not likely to change anyone’s life.

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Richard Patterson

A graduate of New York University with a degree in Dramatic Literature, Richard was deputy theatre editor at musicOMH.com from 2008-2011 and New York Editor of Exeunt from 2011-2016. He is excited to continue on as a contributor. With a penchant for Sondheim, the Bard, and Beckett, as well as for new writing, theatergoing highlights include Fiona Shaw's Winnie in "Happy Days," Derek Jacobi's Lear, Jonathan Pryce in "The Caretaker," and Chiwetel Ejiofor's Othello at the Donmar. Richard's criticism has been published in The Sondheim Review.

Steve Show Info


Produced by The New Group

Directed by Cynthia Nixon

Written by Mark Gerrard

Cast includes Ashlie Atkinson, Mario Cantone, Jerry Dixon, Malcolm Gets, Matt McGrath, Francisco Pryor Garat

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