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San Francisco by Richard Connema

Patrick Wilde’s What’s Wrong with Angry? is Another Coming of Age Gay Soap Opera

Also see Richard's reviews of Othello, Dolly West's Kitchen and
The Thousandth Night

What's Wrong with Angry
Jacob Hulthage, Peter Matthews and Patrick Moreira
The New Conservatory Theatre Center is currently presenting the final production in their Pride Season Ten by resurrecting British playwright Patrick Wilde’s 1992 coming of age drama What’s Wrong with Angry?. At the time of the writing the age of consent for gay men in the U.K. was twenty-one and for heterosexuals it was sixteen. When it was first presented in England, the two-act drama caused quite a sensation. A British film company made the controversial drama into a first rate film, starring the young British actor Ben Silverman, with the playwright writing a more comprehensive script. Paramount Classics picked up the film for the states and changed the title to Get Real, where it was a moderate success with the art theatre audience. Several gay theatre groups in Chicago and Los Angeles have recently revived the dated play to show how things were for young gay men in the early '90s.

What’s Wrong with Angry has several things wrong since the writing is full of clichés. The preaching drama is full of truisms that are now widely known and the characters' utterances on these bromides seem superfluous. It is overly solemn with very little humor. The scenes are choppy, with a narrator coming out occasionally to tell us of his experiences, which really ruins the flow of the drama. Preaching the trials and tribulations of the hero Steven and asking for tolerance from a gay audience seems like “bringing coals to Newcastle.” There are so many gay plays like this that they are becoming passé.

Patrick Wilde has attempted to explore social taboos in the U.K. in the early '90s, a time when there were laws against even discussing homosexuality in school rooms. The plot is about sixteen-year-old Steven Carter (Patrick Leonard Moreira) who is very comfortable about his homosexuality. He knew he was gay from age eleven when he was in the scouts. He goes to a boy’s Catholic school where bullies regularly give him a hard time. His parents don’t know about this and he tries to cover up by having a pudgy girl friend Linda (Brooke Milos) who knows about his sexual feelings. She is very simpatico about the boy’s sexual yearnings.

Steven loves to hang around the public rest room in a nearby park that seems to be a real hot sex club for males. (Don’t any straights ever go in there for relief?) One day, he sees the butch popular athletic jock of the school John (Peter Matthews) at the urinal next to him. Steven invites him to his home for “coffee” (actually John prefers tea to coffee, he says), and John accepts (Steven's parents are conveniently away in London for the day). Sex starts on a regular basis; however, since John wants to protect his butch heterosexual status in the school, he won’t speak to Steven in the halls of the school. The play becomes a gay soap opera involving a high school dance with the local Catholic girls' school, the parents of Steven finding out and ending with something from the Paul Rudnick/Frank Oz film In and Out, only there is no humor in the ending. It should be interesting to note that a sequel has recently been written with John now all grown up. It appeared recently at the Edinburgh Festival.

Most of the actors are just starting in the business and I give them credit for trying to make this a dramatic piece work, though they are hampered by a trite script full of hackneyed phrases. Patrick Leonard Moreira and Peter Matthews seem miscast as Steven and John. Moreira has a pleasing personality but I do not feel any sympathy for him since he seems to be just a little too cute. He does not have the naivety that Ben Silverman had in the British film. Matthews seems better suited for the role of Steven. He is a talented actor who has a Tony Perkins look about him mixed with Hal Sparks of Queer as Folks. He is more ethereal in his acting and looks. His soliloquy in the second act on his sexual experience with his girlfriend seems mundane. Again, that is the fault of the playwright.

John’s friends played by Nate Levine, Jacob Hulthage and Jake Limbert are straight out of Men Behaving Badly. They are completely over the top in the “fight scenes,” and the school dance scene is almost laughable. Brooke Milos as Steven's best friend is excellent in her role of a no-nonsense person who might be pudgy but a “real mean talking machine.” Dennis Parks has a true British accent since he is a “man of Kent” and he does a campy imitation of the English school head master talking to the boys about being “normal.” Dennis also plays the horrified father of Steven who finds out his son is gay. Cameron Weston plays the closeted gay teacher Simon who seems completely out of place when he talks about his own gay experience as a teenager with some strange flash backs involving a silly gay bar dance scene. The other cast members including Ana Bayat as the mother of Steven and Kate Hinney as John’s girlfriend do what they can with their small acting roles.

Tanya Telson's scenic design seems to be made of barn doors that open up to show Steven’s bedroom, with photos of Leonardo gracing the walls, and the public men’s room in the park. The actors have to stop the action to close and open these doors which does not help the flow of the play. The British accents with the exception of Dennis Parks are very weak and sometimes they go into an American midwestern accent. Playwright Patrick Wilde’s chestnut play would have been better presented as the screenplay version on stage without all of that window dressing of flashbacks and the unnecessary narration of the teacher. Director John Dixon should have had the play flow smoothly with out those awkward scene changes and flashbacks.

What’s Wrong with Angry? plays through July 10th at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased by calling 415-861-8972 or online at www.nccsf.org.

Pride Season Eleven opens on August 6th with the West Coast premiere of Dangerous, an update of the classic French story Les Liaisons Dangereuses with an all male cast.


Photo: Kevin Berne


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

- Richard Connema



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