There’s powerful acting at Island City Stage. The Pride, which opened in London in 2008 to acclaim, is being presented by Island City Stage and actors Faiza Cherie, Sean Dorazio, Bruce Linser and Michael McKeever do well with an awkward script. This is a first time effort from playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell and to a theater goer watching with no advance knowledge of the piece, a confusing offering.
The Pride opens in London, 1958, in the flat of a married couple, Philip (Bruce Linser) and Sylvia (Faiza Cherie). He’s a rentals agent, she is a former actress and now the illustrator of children’s books and they’re entertaining the author of her current project, Oliver (Michael McKeever). Oliver is meeting Philip for the first time and static small talk of the time prevails. With English accents. Sylvia leaves and the two men chat on, hesitantly. But there’s a spark, unmentioned.
The lights dim and a Nazi, in full swastika regalia appears stage right. He is booted, capped bemedalled and bellowing at Oliver, now dressed only in his underpants and grovelling before his tormentor. It is 2008 and this is a different Oliver, but also played by McKeever. A different Philip interrupts them (Linser) who has just broken up with Oliver. The Nazi (Sean Dorazio) switches from cartoon screaming German/English to whiny Cockney: "I need me respect. I’m just an actor trying to get ahead." And we discover, coarsely, that Oliver is addicted to burying his head in the groins of strangers. Hence the breakup. Sylvia is now an actress and her best friend is Oliver, now a journalist.
Dorazio is also an awkwardly straight editor assigning a gay centered article to writer Oliver. He also plays a doctor asking disturbing questions of a tormented Philip.
And so it goes, scene by scene, one melding into the next as the two Olivers, Philips and Sylvias switch back and forth between 1958 and 2008, reflecting the changing ways of homosexuality and its acceptance.
This is not a delicate piece, don’t bring Grannie unless she favors downstage blatant gay rape over tatting tea cosies.
Time shifts are helped somewhat by the opening and closing of curtains and the changing outdoor scenes beyond the upstage window.
Although there are many gay one liners this is by no means a farce. These characters are in pain and director Andy Rogow has drawn deeply moving revelations from his actors. McKeever, in particular, digs deeper than most would care to go. Extraordinary moments.
The Pride is well worth attending, but be warned. It’s confusing and program notes are of no help. Do your homework first.
Scenic design Michael McClain, lighting Eric J. Cantrell, sound David Hart and costumes by Peter A. Lovello.
The Pride plays through June 22. Presented by Island City Stage at Empire Stage, 1140 North Flagler Drive, Ft Lauderdale T: 954-519-2533 www.islandcitystage.org