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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Jonathan Tolins Comedy
The Last Sunday In June
One of the Better "Gay" Plays

Also see Richard's review of Seduction

Jonathan Tolins' comedy The Last Sunday In June has finally reached San Francisco and it is currently playing at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. Director George Maguire has assembled an excellent cast for the play set in an apartment on Christopher Street during the annual NYC Gay Pride parade. This is a modern day version of Matt Crowley's The Boys In the Band - some of the same types from Crowley's play are here - but there is a modern spin to the characters which makes the play interesting.

The Last Sunday in June opened at the Rattlestick Theatre in New York during last winter. New York Times reviewer Bruce Weber called the comedy-drama "smart, timely and funny." He also said it pushed "the 'gay play' forward into its next generation of concerns." I certainly agree with this. The play was such a success it was moved from the 99 seat house to the much larger Century Center for the Performing Arts on April 9, 2003 where it ran through July 6.

The setting is the Village apartment of a seven year happily "married" couple, Tom (Tristan James Butler) and Michael (Elias Escobedo). Their friends, with a little jealousy in their hearts, call them the ideal couple. Both are successful in their chosen fields of teacher and attorney. They apparently are not all that interested in mingling with the crowds watching the parade since they want to go to Pottery Barn to buy a lamp for the apartment. They are also planning to move to an upstate "burb" to live among mainstream America.

Tom and Michael's friends come over one by one so each gets his moment to indicate what kind of gay man we are going to see. The elder, campy Charles (P.A. Cooley) is the first to arrive. He is the opera lover who mourns the mortification of cruising at his age. He is full of camp humor and is a tragic figure, for all of his wit and humor. There is a giddy young actor Joe (Thomas Fahrner), who has played the butch role in a summer stock production of A Chorus Line and loves to cruise men in business suits. Brad (Leon Acord) is HIV-positive and jokes that he "takes 31 pills a day, including Ambien, Paxil and Altoids." We also have to have the staple of every gay play, the shirtless hunk - this one's name is Scott (David Kirkpatrick). He comes in and goes out very quickly. The interesting thing about these characters is that they refer to themselves as being in a typical gay play. They even say "We have to have a shirtless hunk because who else would we put on the poster?"

Last Sunday in June
Meagan Bioichini and Andrew Nance
The Last Sunday In June group's light repartee starts to darken with the surprise arrival of Tom's ex-boyfriend James (Andrew Nance) who announces that he is going to marry a a woman. James is one unhappy camper, and he becomes the catalyst for some revelations from some of the members of the group. He attacks the idea that in the current homosexual life "cute boys rule the world." The playwright further stirs the pot by bringing in James's fiancée Susan (Megan Biolchini) who ably defends herself against the boys who are not happy that one of their kind is marrying a woman. Yes, there is a lot going on in this 100 minute no intermission play.

All of the actors neatly fit their roles, and director George Maguire's pacing is excellent. Elias Escobedo and Tristan James Butler are just right as the upscale couple, while P.A. Cooley as the campy queen who "plays by the rules" is perfect in the role. Andrew Nance as the unhappy James shows wonderful and sullen intensity in his diatribe of current gay trends. Outstanding is Megan Biolchini as the only woman in the cast. Her remarks on why she is marrying James, who she knows is gay, are intelligent and forthright, carrying a message for both hetero and homo marriages.

Leon Acord once again plays the acerbic character and it fits him like a glove. His banter is very good. Thomas Fahrner is a young man just out of college who seems to be a little over anxious on stage and plays Joe very naively. Rounding out the cast is the necessary hunk David Kirkpatrick. Yes, he does have a beautiful body; he is the center of attention when he is onstage.

Maguire keeps the pace smooth with no dull spots. Set design by Nancy Mancias is very good. She has extended the stage to make it look like a nice upper middle class apartment living room in the Village. Of all the gay plays I have reviewed, this is one of the better comedy-dramas. The playwright has great wit and insight into some of the characters, who discuss rules in the gay world and how they can act depending on ages of the individuals and their physical being.

The Last Sunday In June runs thru February 29th at the big theater at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco, Ca. For tickets call 415-861-8972 or visit www.nctcsf.org. Currently playing there also are the two one act plays Dooley and A Taste of Heaven, and the Walker Theatre has the world premiere of Seduction


Photo: Lois Tema


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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