Conjuring life parallels across a sea of time
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
nancy oarneire Graham