Search Results

Keyword: ‘Benjamin Gregg’

NEOMFA Play Festival

February 14th, 2012 No comments

Went to the NEOMFA festival on February 4 and February 9 at convergence and had a blast.  First of all, there were so many faces there that I recognized that it literally was like walking into a holiday celebration at a family house.

Mike Williams’ piece Plant Life was up first.  While it felt a bit unfinished, it was a yearning piece that sought and looked forward with hope to the possibility that the future might bring.  Alan’s (Tom Kondilas) wife Leslie (Liz Conway) has liver disease and needs a new liver.  The waiting list game isn’t working for the pair and they opt in to the possibilities for a new liver presented by a research scientist (Michael Regnier) whose work with plants has yielded intriguing possibilities.  Combined with this, the deterioration of Alan and Leslie’s relationship begins against the disease and the financial stress on the pair (he is a poor artist, she is the bread-winner).  There were two real highlights, I felt. The first was the rapid succession of wake-up-we-have-to-go moments when the phone rang announcing a possible liver donor had been found.  The succession demonstrated the frustration, terror, and effort that is involved in dealing with transplantation and accomplished the task of moving the play forward both in time and in plot.  The second was the work of convergence in using their trap to allow the birth of the plant Leslie from the pod. Having planted and tended the seed given him by the mad scientist, Alan receives the fruits of his labors in the form of a “new” Leslie who holds within her the liver that the real Leslie needs.  While at first an innocuous plant, at the end it is a massive pod that breaks open revealing: Leslie.  The effect was incredible and the audience rejoiced in seeing it—showing again that to a certain extent spectacle is what drives entertainment in a theater.

Jarod Witkowski’s play Nothing Funny was quite different from Williams’ piece, which was primarily plot-driven. Witkowski’s play’s concern is innocuous enough, a son (Benjamin Gregg) and his relationship (or lack thereof) with his parents played by both Amy Bistok Bunce and Wes Shofner—whom it was great to see at convergence again.  The play begins with the mother shoving dinner to her son saying, “I never liked you much as a kid.”  From there the play explodes in an onslaught of strange and rambling monologues, songs, dislocated scene sequences, jumps in time and space, odd interludes, and startling uses of the space that create a highly expressionistic and subjective emotional dissection of a family’s dysfunctional life together.  A television and colorful old pump assembly (put together by Wes) allowed for movement through time at the push of a…handle.  So the play jumps between the present, the future, the past, funny interlude, monologue, etc.  By focusing on these three people and their relationship with one another, Witkowski does a highly effective job of excavating the emotional life of the family: the resentments, disappointments, yearning for connection, and inability to connect or even express themselves—comically highlighted by the constant refrain of both parents: “grammatical error” as their son speaks.  That is, it’s not enough to strive sincerely to express yourself clearly to another person, but to have to do it in precisely correct grammar—as that seems to be what the person your talking to is focused on—well, that just makes it all the more difficult.

Both of the plays were challenging and fun to see and convergence really came together to put on a wonderful set of shows for the NEOMFA playwrights.

The Boys in the Band

October 19th, 2011 No comments

The Boys in the Band


Saw The Boys in the Band last Friday at convergence and enjoyed myself thoroughly.


The play, written by Mart Crowley, first appeared in 1968 and in some ways you can tell that it is dated–and not in the more obvious aspects–set, exposition, etc., but in the real concerns confronting the characters. This is not to say that it is not very powerful: it is. And powerful in ways you might not expect. Although the issue of homosexuality concerning the men might not be as biting today as it was once, the other fears and concerns that the men express certainly resonate: aging and the heart rending realization that your best years are not only behind you, but lost forever and only memories; finding meaning and value in one’s life, accepting who you are and learning to move forward in the best possible way. For these characters, though, in 1968, there was piled on top of these more “common” concerns, the very real stigma and abuse associated with being homosexual.


The Boys in the Band, in essence, is about a group of gay men coming together to throw a birthday party. As the party goes along, and the men drink more and more, it becomes apparent that the life-long battle with the social stigma that has been attached to their sexual orientation has brutalized many of the men’s self image and, coupled with the issues I mentioned above, leads to scathing and terrible personal attacks as self-hatred and loathing is projected (by some men) and returned, and volleyed around like a tennis ball. It is important, I think, to note that the men are each representative of a certain type and not all of the men hates himself.

The play gets off to a slow start at the apartment of the host, Michael, (Curt Arnold) who is getting dressed and preparing the apartment for the party. His lover, Donald, (Zac Hudak) arrives (he’s a librarian) and through a rather lengthy stretch of exposition we receive the information that will drive most of the rest of the play: the disillusion that Donald and Michael have with the gay scene, the fact that each is seeing a shrink, that Michael has always had a difficult time with this parents, his identity, and has recently stopped smoking and drinking. The final piece of the expositional puzzle is a telephone call to Michael from Alan (Jim Jarrell) an old college chum (conceited, supercilious, pretentious) who is also straight–perhaps. Alan is drunkenly weeping into the phone and has something to tell Michael; he will only tell Michael in person, and insists on coming over to Michael’s apartment. One-by-one the guests arrive and the play really picks up steam and energy: Emory (Clyde Simon) is the quintessential fairy who lightly floats about making snarky, often lascivious, comments; Bernard (Bobby Williams) the only black gay man in the group; Larry (Scott Zolkowski), a truly lascivious gay man who cannot abide monogamy, much to the chagrin of his lover Hank (Dan Kilbane) the token “married” gay man in the group; a gay prostitute/midnight cowboy (Benjamin Gregg); and finally, there is Harold (Jonathan Wilhelm) in whose honor the party is being thrown.

With the party in full gear the drunkenness and back-talking begins. All is well until Alan shows up forcing Michael to request that the gay men all behave and pretend to be what they are not, culminating at the end of act one with Alan punching Emory for one-too-many snide comments and Michael falling off the wagon and chugging vodka or scotch from a carafe.

The second act builds on the first with drunken boisterousness rising and rising alongside the anger and self-loathing of Michael who now takes careful target at virtually everyone in the room–with only Harold, the star party guest, showing the capacity to match Michael’s sparring.


I’ll not bore everyone with a book report of the play, but suffice it to say the play becomes very raw and dangerous at this point, exposing what I can only imagine to be the circa 1960s/70s psychological damage that was done by the constant degradation of these men by the societal and cultural attitudes toward who they in their very being were. Despite the lightness, the airs, the joking; one can see that the damage and relentlessness of it on the psyche and health of these men was severe and Crowley’s play does an excellent job of laying bare this reality.

Production Notes

Douglas Tyson-Rand does a very good job directing and keeping the pace of this play up and driving constantly forward; Cory Molnar designed a great circa-1960s set for the play that, as always, is comfy cozy in the close-up world of The Liminis theater space.

If you haven’t seen this play, do yourself a favor and check it out. It runs through Saturday, October 29th at convergence.

%d bloggers like this: