Okay, granted, the cover's not thrilling. But the inside ...
What is it?
It’s a play by Jordan Seavey, first presented in New York City in 2016, and published by Samuel French.
What’s it about?
It’s basically a portrait of a relationship between two gay men, called simply The Writer and The Academic, between 2006 and 2011. They meet (on Friendster, apparently a precursor of Facebook), they get together, they break up, they get back together again. Most of the scenes are just the two of them, and there are only two other characters.
Sounds unremarkable. Is it?
No. The most noticeable thing first off, as a reader, is how choppy the dialogue is. These characters are constantly interrupting each other, talking at the same time and in incomplete sentences, and starting sentences that don’t finish. In other words, they talk the way real people talk. It’s a bit weird at the start, but as a reader, I soon got used to it, and it was actually a hugely pleasurable experience. I could really hear these people talking to one another as I read. That’s fairly remarkable.
Also, the story is not told chronologically. Rather, we get bits of various scenes out of order—which is more challenging (and interesting).
But does the play have anything to say? Or is it just an engrossing story?
The play does have things to say, but it’s more or less up to the reader to draw their own conclusions. These guys do talk a lot about the fact that they’re gay/queer (the Academic is a queer studies scholar) and have views on their identity that will resonate (or not) with the reader. And the play is called Homos, so the fact that these fellows are gay is not incidental. But the play isn’t in the least preachy. The author is presenting his view of a way of being gay in modern New York, in a story that unfolds against a background of the movement towards the acceptance of same-sex marriage in the United States. These guys don’t get married, but at the end they show evidence of an ongoing commitment to each other that might have one asking to what extent marriage is necessary and/or advisable for gay couples.
Also—and for me this was the main take-away from the play—Jordan Seavey chooses to tell a story that culminates in a violent homophobic episode, which suggests that life for gay men in the 2010s—even in oh so cool Williamsburg, Brooklyn—continues to be highly challenging. In my view, this is a supremely important message, and I admire this play for facing up to this truth rather than peddling the illusion of what the Artist at one point calls “the majority of liberal Americans [who] seem to think we’re living in some ‘post-gay’ fantasia.”
You really liked this play. Star, or stars?
I’m going out on a limb and giving it a big mushy two stars! I loved it, both for its writing and for what it talks about, and I think it’s an important look at contemporary gay lives. Hurrah.