Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Theatre review: 46 Beacon

A gentle - perhaps too gentle - coming out story parks up at the smaller Trafalgar Studio for a month, Bill Rosenfield's 46 Beacon looking back at gay life in early 1970s America through rose-tinted glasses. Or possibly rose-tinted velour. Robert (Jay Taylor) is an English actor approaching middle age, who's taken a job in a Boston theatre to take a break from problems at home. Alan (Oliver Coopersmith) is a teenager with a part-time job at the theatre, and Robert has spotted and taken an interest in him, noticing that Alan is interested too. After one performance he invites him back to his small flat where he gently seduces him. And yes, although it's made clear Alan wants to be seduced but is mostly just reticent because of nerves about his first time and admitting his sexuality to himself, there is a bit of a creepy undertone to the age gap (though Robert doesn't realise at first just how big the gap is. The age gap, not his anus.)

Admittedly the creepiness might be largely down to the fact that, after a briefFULL FRONTAL MALE NUDITY ALERT!at the start of the play Taylor changes into a BURGUNDY VELOUR LOUNGE SUIT and I know it's set in the seventies but that's still no excuse for offending the eyeballs to such an extent.


Taylor and Coopersmith do manage to make the odd couple and their mutual attraction seem real though, making the whole evening a lot more likeable as they reveal more about what makes them who they are. But maybe it could have done with that bit of extra edge though, as it's too heavily filtered through romanticised memory. It opens and closes with narration from the present day, and apart from a brief mention in the intro that this is set before the days of AIDS, Alan's closing memories of how this was the beginning of a happier new life for him breezily gloss over the fact that he would have been in the thick of it a decade later, and if not sick himself would have certainly lost a lot of friends.


Of course not every play has to have a heart of darkness and Alexander Lass' production and his actors find the strengths in Rosenfield's writing; Coopersmith should be able to play the part in his sleep of course as it's two out of three in his Highly Specific Typecasting (gay and schoolboy; Jewish isn't specified although it's not ruled out either.) It's one of those plays that entertains enough while it's on, but the shying away from any darker side contributes to it being pretty easy to leave behind once it's over as well.

46 Beacon by Bill Rosenfield is booking until the 29th of April at Trafalgar Studio 2.

Running time: 1 hour 20 minutes straight through.

Photo credit: Pete Le May.

7 comments:

  1. So did Jay really show all? I saw I think the second preview and he kept that towel firmly planted in front of the goods as he walked on and off set. Maybe he's relaxed into it, or was it a fleeting glance?

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    1. It may depend where you are in the auditorium; I was at the far audience right so looking right at where the entrance from the "shower" was. It's a very quick flash anyway.

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    2. Does Oliver Coopersmith show anything or just Jay Taylor? I listened to an interview with the two of them that made quite a big deal of the nudity.

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    3. Again if you were sitting on the right-hand audience bank you might see something, but only if you were in the front row, maybe the second, by the bed.

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  2. I saw this play on Thursday and it has stayed with me. Rose-coloured? Sure, it's a memory play and its about a positive experience. Billington felt the same way as you about why no dwelling on the spectre of AIDS but I think the author's point was to keep it positive and not " I came out happily and then everyone I know died." Presumably, if he wants to write an AIDS play he will.

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    1. Much as I hate to agree with Billington, the play felt a bit one-dimensional, and of course that doesn't mean the solution has to be about AIDS - there's no shortage of gay AIDS plays. But when you're so specific about the time and place you're setting the play, and then give it a happy ending where you go on to find a new gay "family," you're putting a pretty big elephant in the room.

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  3. I think the author was giving the audience the benefit of the doubt in not stressing the spectre of AIDS., I think he was having us make the connection and think about the irony of the times - just as things were changing for the better, AIDS comes along and decimates the gay population.

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