Steve - Zeitgeist Stage Company
Steve – Zeitgeist Stage Company
Review by James Wilkinson
Steve by Mark Gerrard. Presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company. Direction and scene design by David Miller. Costume Design: Elizabeth Cole Sheehan. Lighting Design: Michael Clark Wonson. Sound Design: Jay Mobley
I’m racking my brain, trying to think of a play that presents middle age in a positive light. (There must be at least one, right?) I seem to be unable to come up with a title. Every piece that tackles that period beyond the 18-35 demographic seems to paint it as a time of lost dreams, constant anxiety and the looming question, “Now what?” That question, “Now what?” is at the center of Mark Gerrard’s play, Steve, now being presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Plaza Black Box Theatre. The characters in the piece are all asking themselves what comes next, leading them down a variety of different paths.
The titular Steve is actually several people. First and foremost, it refers to Steven, our protagonist, an ex-aspiring Broadway dancer who is approaching that dreaded middle age period. He is now a stay-at-home dad to the son that he has with Stephen, his lawyer husband. The play opens on Steven’s (protagonist Steven) birthday where he’s joined at a swanky New York City restaurant by his husband and a few close friends. His best friend, Carrie, has recently been left by her girlfriend due to her terminal cancer diagnosis. His other friends, couple Matt and Brian, cannot stop raving about Steve, their new personal trainer. It’s on this birthday that Steven (protagonist Steven) discovers that his husband has been secretly sexting with Brian for some time. This sets off a chain of events where Stephen is forced to figure out exactly what it is he wants from his relationship moving forward.
I have to say that despite winning performances from all of the actors (more on them in a moment) and perfectly competent direction from Zeitgeist Artistic Director, David Miller, the production didn’t click for me. And I think it all comes back to Mark Gerrard’s script. The play really wants to wade into the issue of monogamy in long term relationships. Is such a thing possible? Should occasional infidelity be expected? Where is the line drawn at what qualifies as infidelity? What happens if the monogamous two person relationship model isn’t for everyone? These are interesting questions that all couples (gay, straight or in between) have had to deal with and there’s a plethora a material to be drawn from it. It becomes frustrating then when Gerrard never has his script dive into the issues as deeply as he seems to think it does. For example, we never see Steven (protagonist Steven) directly confront Stephen (lawyer Stephen) with his sexting. So we never learn why Stephen (lawyer Stephen) started the flirtation in the first place and what emotional need it may have filled. In fact, wanting sex appears to be the only thing drawing the relationship together. Not that sex isn’t important in a romantic relationship, but at the risk of sounding like a wet blanket, shouldn’t there also be something else keeping people together? Especially if they’re raising a child together?
The strongest asset that the production has is the collection of actors that have been assembled. Victor Shopov gives a great central performance as Steven (protagonist Steven), letting the audience feel his frustration as scene by scene is life begins to unravel. As his husband Stephen (lawyer Stephen), Alex Jacobs has a great comic scene that’s practically a monologue as he juggles responding to two texting conversations and two phone conversations all at once. He makes it look easy. (I can tell you from experience, it’s not). Jenny Reagan gives a very tender performance as Carrie. Watching the show, I genuinely believed that I was watching a group of close friends, which is a testament to the actors. At the end of the day I just wish that the script gave them more to sink their teeth into.
Steve is presented by Zeitgeist Stage Company at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts March 2-24, 2018.
For tickets and more information, visit their website at: www.zeitgeiststage.com