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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Tom Kelly's Significant Others
is an Enticing Production

Also see Richard's reviews of Our Town, Life x 3, and The Right Kind of People

Significant Others
Leo Lawhorn and Kunal Prasad
Tom W. Kelly's charming five one-act dramas are holding forth at the New Conservatory Theatre Center through January 2nd. In recent years, film studios have advertised some of their romantic films as the perfect date movie. Significant Others is a perfect gay date production. It should appeal to older gay couples who have seen it all, including how sometimes love triumphs, despite the impossible ideals of youth. One cannot look at these five one-act plays without feeling some sort of déjà vu, as we see the irritability of later years in the lives of older gay couples.

The playwright has a good handle on words, though he goes too far afield in several places that need serious pruning. The opening act, called Faded Photographs, is a delightful pastiche of two mature men on a gay cruise ship. Ben (Leo Lawhorn), who is a vacationing doctor, runs into Arthur (Eric Rice) on the deck of the ship. They had a hot and heavy romance twenty five years earlier and have not seen each since. Arthur acts like Felix in The Odd Couple and really does not want to become involved again. However, the outgoing and aggressive Ben will not take no for an answer, and love triumphs. Kelly's dialogue is sharp and bristling, and there is a touch of Mamet in his writing. This is one of the highlights of the evening.

The second one-act, Roadside Assistance, does not do it for me. It is a gay version of "The Dukes of Hazards," with two hunky men - Virgil (Kunal Prasad) and Frank (John Atwood) - dressed as lumberjacks with god awful accents straight from the CBS series, talking about their love for each other in the good old days. The dialogue is a hammy and very "soap opera-ish." The boys even sport makeup that looks like they have never had a close shave in their lives.

Or Not to Be? completes the first section of the amiable production. This is a little gem about three queens sitting in a café (looking suspiciously like West Hollywood) dishing about their love affairs. The youngest of the group, Steve (Parker Baltimore), is a typical flighty queen who does not know what love is all about. The older two are having their own problems with James' (Leo Lawborn) lover moving out and Mike's (Eric Rice) lover moving in. It is a real campy scene, and the playwright has the words down right in this Hollywood farce.

The second act opens with Twice Blessed, which runs much too long and needs a sincerity factor. Wayne (Leo Lawhorn) meets his secret lover, a young artist named Virgil (Kunal Prasad), up at a "lookout point" for a secret rendezvous. Unfortunately, they are very mismatched, and the dialogue seems straight out of a 1960s Ross Hunter movie. The speech that Robert makes goes on much too long, and you just can't believe that older Wayne, who is completely out of shape, has had 100 men over the past year. Prasad, who was so butch in Roadside Assistance, now becomes extremely effeminate. It is an excellent change of characters.

Tom Kelly and director Alan S. Quismorio save the best for last in The Virgin Tango, a bewitching piece of first, young love played beautifully by John Atwood as a macho high school football star and Parker Baltimore as a frightened, timid and effeminate young high school student. The two teens are at the prom and they are in love. They have hidden this fact from their schoolmates and have met in a closet of the school before going into the prom. The dialogue is beautifully written and these young actors are winsome.

Director Alan S. Quismorio has been able to get to the crux of the play, and his scenes changes are smooth. He gets the best out of the five actors. The staging by Tanya Telson is excellent, with two large, curved panels and a minimum of props - tables and chairs - on the small stage.

Significant Others runs through January 2nd at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco. For tickets call the NCTC box office at 415-861-8972.


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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