Some of my single friends figure that if, like me, they have no one to make out with on Valentine’s Day, the next best thing is to come to see my play “Leave” and and watch four other guys make out with each other. Sounds like a reasonable back-up plan.
“I’m not gonna say I love you, ’cause that’d be stupid, right?”
“I don’t know. I’ve fallen in love a lot faster for a lot less. So no, it’s not stupid. But we don’t have to put a label on it. We can just be, for right now, whatever you need.”
Because “Leave” is, on its most basic level, a love story.
About two guys who have been together since they were young, and are struggling to stay together and remain faithful despite all the walls “don’t ask, don’t tell” throws up between them.
About a guy just figuring out who he is, and a guy who thought he had everything figured out so love couldn’t sneak up and surprise him anymore.
About a mother’s love for her son, and the lengths to which she’ll go to support and protect him.
About love between friends that gets complicated, but ultimately saves them.
About men who love their country, even when their country refuses to love them back.
“Kiss me like you mean it.”
I was emailing back and forth with a friend planning to come see the show who was part one of the very first readings of script way back when, telling him the script was very different now… “…and the cast is just great”
“And as handsome as they come,” he replied. “I hope you have added a nice shirtless love scene for us.”
“There are, in fact, several. Enjoy!”
As the audience was coming back from intermission, one of the company member ushers told the returning patrons…
“I hope you like guys in their underwear.”
“Is there anything they can do to take Nicholas away from you? I don’t think so. That guy is welded to you. He will stand by you when everyone else melts away, no matter what they throw at him. You know that, right?”
After one of the “guys in their boxer briefs” scenes in act two, a guy near me was heard to say, “Yummy.” Before his friend elbowed him in the side.
Act One includes
– Two guys trying to write love letters to each other in code
– Two guys facing off against each other outside the communal showers wearing nothing but towels
– One man resisting temptation while another gives in
– An ethereal three-way in which one man allows another man to touch him, while visualizing the image of his husband who can’t be with him
– A transatlantic phone call filled with so much longing and unspoken emotion the two sides of the conversation nearly break down in the weighted silences
– One guy seducing another with words and an ungloved hand on his face
– Two guys on a walk holding hands trying to get through discussion of possible death in the line of duty with a kiss or two and some gentle touches
– An overheated reunion after months apart, featuring what someone in rehearsal called “the kiss above all other kisses, right out of The Princess Bride.”
– And enough motherly hugs and reassuring touches to break the resolve of the most hardened stoic
“All this nobility is making my teeth hurt.”
Act Two includes
– Guys in their boxer briefs, #1 – in which the stability and intimacy of the relationship help ground a character being dogged by unpleasant memories of war
– A scene in which a guy is comically seduced into his first kiss, and quickly goes back for more
– A post-traumatic stress disorder incident that ends in a hug that makes the guy look like he might drown on dry land if he let go.
– Guys in their boxer briefs, #2 – sexy times, with artful lighting, and a fair helping of comedy
– A non-declaration of love and negotiation of hand-holding in public that is cuter than either of the men involved would like to admit
– Another non-declaration of love that, thanks to our brilliant lighting designer, looks very much like two guys walking off into the sunset together
“Please stop touching my face.”
“If you were touching him, he’d wipe your tears.”
“If I was touching him, I wouldn’t be crying.”
“Yeah. You would.”
Hanging out after rehearsal one day, an actor was talking about what a challenge the role was, all the things he didn’t have in common with his character. One that surprised me was
“I’ve never loved anyone with all my heart.”
My knee-jerk reaction was, of course, a joke, “Yeah, but you do know these guys are fictional, right?”
But then I thought about it, and I have to admit, this script brings those kind of guys out of the woodwork. People I’ve never met. Couples who have clearly gone the distance, or are going to go the distance. They need their date plays, too.
They exist, those couples.
I’m not making up as much as I think I am.
It’s good to be reminded.
My own Valentine’s Day present, a friend flying up from Texas to see the show, is gonna be a little delayed. He doesn’t get here til the weekend.
Meantime, I can’t think of a better way to enjoy Valentine’s Day (and not let it get me down), than to watch a play where love triumphs over most, if not all. And the actors are so committed to the reality of the story and the characters that it doesn’t feel like it came from words on a piece of paper anymore.
Most of the plays I write, in one way or another, are love stories.
This is one of my best.
In addition to tonight’s Valentine’s Day (pay what you can) performance at 7:30pm, “Leave,” from Urbran Samurai Productions and yours truly, runs at the Sabes Jewish Community Center on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, February 17 through 19; Monday (pay what you can), February 21; and Thursday, Friday, Saturday, February 24 through 26. You can find all the pertinent information you might need at urbansamurai.org
(photo by George M. Calger)