Extremely close childhood friends Peter and Jason are wending their way through Catholic high school: Peter is an openly, guiltily gay kid; and Jason is much more careful and cautious and closeted. But they still seem to be very much in love. And director Scott Miller draws both actors, and the entire cast, to performances that are strikingly real and compelling, in spite of all the possible pitfalls of the high school drama at hand.
Mike Dowdy is Peter, full of the requisite "emo," but his panoramic performance also glints with winning spontaneity and irony and occasional lightness. Jacob Golliher is his handsome high school love interest, whose looks will get him into a lot of trouble. But he's also seemingly innocent about it all, and sort of unformed, till things explode in the second act. Then Golliher, the actor, easily zooms to catch-up to the fervor: as events race side by side with youthful passions.
I really don't think intelligent people will drive across town, in the summer heat, just on the "off chance" that a show called Bare might have some teenaged nudity in it. But, just to be clear, it doesn't, so ... too bad for you, if that's what you were thinking. But the conflict that's lain bare comes from the clash of two intractable realities: the personal truth of the bitter teenaged gay experience, set against the popular truth of Western spiritual rigor. But don't panic: the production also bubbles with wit and romance, and the book and music and lyrics by Damon Intrabartolo and Jon Hartmere Jr. are original and funny and deeply authentic. Much of the action is set against a high school production of Romeo and Juliet and at drug-fueled parties and guilt-ridden church sermons, all spare and brisk and full of fresh reflection.
It's another remarkably solid cast for a New Line show, with Terrie Carolan as the "easy girl" who sets her cap for the handsome Jasonand shows breath-taking twists of mental anguish that make her far more complex than you might expect, conveying striking emotional transitions with just the flicker of her eyes. Charlotte Byrd is the rueful "fat girl": wry and ironic and hilarious in several memorable songs and, pardon my mush, but she could sing a few more and I wouldn't complain at all.
Nikki Glenn is a lot of fun as the teaching sister who must put on Romeo and Juliet, and Zachary Allen Farmer adds splendid gravitas as the parish priest who can't (or won't) understand the horrible problems of the kids in his church. Jonathan Foster and Rahamses Galvan are fully invested in their roles, Mr. Foster as a jilted suitor and Mr. Galvan, hilarious as a jive-dancing drug dealer. And the chorus, as usual, is full of lush, beautiful harmonies.
A lot of people don't know, or don't want to admit, that the gay teen suicide rate in America is estimated to be three times higher than the general teenaged population. But, fortunately, this show (though slightly incoherent at times) makes it pretty clear what gay teens face, even in the 21st century. Don't let that turn you off from the show's many joys, thoughBare is full of great story telling and fun music, rich characters and very fine performances.
Through June 25, 2011, at the Washington University South Campus, in the old CBC high school, 6501 Clayton Rd., just east (and across the street) from the Esquire movie theater. Parking is on the west side of the school property. For more information call (314) 534-1111 or visit them on-line at www.newlinetheatre.com.
The New Line Band