Con­jur­ing life par­al­lels across a sea of time


Albany Times Union - Sunday - - FLAVOR -

1 grad­ual com­ing out process of a mid­dle aged gay man, circa 2005. The world premiere pro­duc­tion opens Thurs­day at Bridge Street Theatre in Catskill where it plays through Nov. 18.

Whistler, who lives in the Philadel­phia area, states that his mis­sion as a play­wright is to de­pict the lives of con­tem­po­rary gay men with hu­mor, hon­esty and dig­nity. One of his re­cent works is a se­ries of mono­logues de­pict­ing con­tem­po­rary gay archetypes.

“I’m fas­ci­nated by the cul­tural language of be­ing gay,” says Whistler. Some­times his method is reach­ing back to the sec­u­lar saints of gay life. “Mickle Street,” an­other of his plays, imag­ines Os­car Wilde and Walt Whit­man con­vers­ing over af­ter­noon cock­tails.

It was an easy next step to em­brace Tchaikovsky, who is known to have been tor­tured and con­flicted about his ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity. While the facts of the com­poser’s per­sonal life are some­times iffy, Whistler says he could read the mu­sic plain as day.

“Peo­ple find what they want to find in the lives of the fa­mous,” ad­mits Whistler. “But the mu­sic of Tchaikovsky is gay. There’s the un­abashed pas­sion, how dra­matic it is, the show­man­ship, heartache and en­durance, and the cel­e­bra­tion of the sur­vivor.”

In or­der to con­nect Tchaikovsky’s story with con­tem­po­rary times, Whistler cre­ated the char­ac­ter of Joe, a high school sci­ence teacher who lives an iso­lated life in sub­ur­ban Wash­ing­ton state. For so­lace and com­pan­ion­ship, Joe lis­tens to the mu­sic of Tchaikovsky.

“I wanted to find stakes in the 21st cen­tury world, that would match Tchaikovsky’s,” ex­plains Whistler. “These are two men deal­ing with their ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and mak­ing dif­fer­ent choices. Tchaikovsky takes his own life and Joe doesn’t. He de­cides to get out of there.”

Joe, played by Ja­son Guy, emerges into the world with cau­tion. His first oh-so-ten­ta­tive step in­volves call­ing up a gay chat line. Rather than talk­ing, he plays mu­sic of Tchaikovsky into the phone re­ceiver. The per­son on the other end of the line is a 19-year-old run­away named Blaine, por­trayed by Bradley Levine.

Much of the first act con­sists of their fit­ful phone ex­changes. Even­tu­ally, Joe stops let­ting the or­ches­tral mu­sic speak for him and uses his own voice. He and Blaine make a date, which leads to their re­la­tion­ship in Act Two.

Whistler says that mu­sic is “an­other char­ac­ter in the play” and he’s made Joe a dis­cern­ing, ec­cen­tric mu­sic lover. His fa­vorite record­ing of “The Nutcracker” is an his­toric gem, with Ar­tur

Ja­son Keller­man

ser­ena ves­per

Bradley levine

Ja­son Guy

nancy oarneire Gra­ham

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