It might seem as if the creative team behind “Homos, or Everyone in America,” a fabulous and fragmented look at six years of a gay relationship, has put up barriers between the audience and the story in order to see Michael Urie (“Buyer & Cellar,” “Ugly Betty”) and Robin De Jesús (“In The Heights,” “Wicked.”) jump over them.
The two characters, aren’t even given names — the program refers to Urie’s role as The Writer and De Jesús’ as The Academic — and they speak in staccato bursts, rather than full sentences…or, more accurately, they are constantly interrupting one another’s full sentences so that they sound like staccato bursts. And then playwright Jordan Seavey puts scenes from their life together out of chronological order. As if that were not confusing enough, the individual scenes are often sliced into two or more parts, and those parts are spread throughout the show.
Director Mike Donahue enlists set designer Dane Laffrey to turn the Labyrinth Theater into something of a labyrinth, with playing areas no wider than a hallway, with some challenge to audience sightlines, especially if your seat happens to be directly behind one of the big, black columns.
But as it turns out, the experiments in form, language and design – and even that big column — do not get in the way of appreciating what’s strongest about the play: The central relationship is believable, and engrossing. This is in large measure because Michael Urie and Robin De Jesus are terrific actors, and also because the playwright is bluntly honest in exploring the range of emotions involved in any relationship. (which may or may not explain that “Or Everyone in America.”)
Why does the playwright put the scenes out of order?
Perhaps in part because, it’s the way people actually remember a relationship – not in a neat order, but in flashes. It also keeps us attentive, intrigued by the clues, and creates some juxtapositions that offer insights into both the characters’ personalities and into the larger culture and society — as well as some humor. The play takes place between 2006 and 2011, allowing us to see how much things have changed in a short time, when the characters discuss such issues as marriage equality, or mention social media. They meet through Friendster, which occasions what may be the first of their many casual disagreements, when the Academic calls it a fad.
“Yeah right, everyone thought email was a fad. Friendster’s no fad
Friendster is here to stay…”
“I think friendster’s an early and popular example of what’s bound to be a sprawling lineage of Internet based social networking websites which…”
“No, no, no. Friendster forever. Mark my words.”
What’s most bracing about “Homos, or Everyone in America,” is something that Jordan Seavey could not have anticipated. A gay bashing is a central event in the play. In the annual fundraising announcement for BC/EFA and the Anti-Violence Project at the curtain call on the night I attended, Urie cited a statistic by the Southern Poverty Law Center — there were some 700 “hateful incidents of harassment” within the week after Election Day.
Homos, or Everyone in America
Written by Jordan Seavey; Directed by Mike Donahue
Set design by Dane Laffrey, lighting design by Scott Zielinski, costume design by Jessica Pabst, sound design by Daniel Kluger,
Cast Aaron Costa Ganis, Robin De Jesús, Stacey Sargeant and Michael Urie
Homos is scheduled to close December 11, 2017