The Pride Review - The Evolution of Being Gay

THE PRIDE played to enthusiastic audiences when it was first produced in 2009 at London’s Royal Court, where it won a prestigious Laurence Olivier Award. In 2017, THE PRIDE premieres at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. Since we are currently celebrating Gay Pride month – and since this play is entitled THE PRIDE – it is appropriate to expect an exploration of the gay experience. THE PRIDE follows Philip, Oliver, and Sylvia through two periods, 1958 and 2008, highlighting the differences in attitudes towards homosexuality over time.

Augustus Prew, Jessica Collins, and Neal Bledsoe - Photo by Kevin Parry

It is 1958; and, to all observers, Sylvia (Jessica Collins) and Philip (Neil Bledsoe) are a happily married couple. They are having an intimate dinner party with Sylvia’s client Oliver (Augustus Prew). Maybe Sylvia finds Oliver a little too exciting, especially when compared to her rather dull husband. Perhaps Philip displays a bit of stiltedness as the two men circle each other with remarks about “looking familiar.” Could there be sparks? But perhaps traveling in disparate – and some not okay - directions for the 1958 public? Could forbidden attraction be a symptom of mental illness at best or pure depravity at worst? Must any such feelings be extricated from the psyche or can they be allowed to blossom? Perhaps the answer depends on when the question is asked.

Augustus Prew and Neal Bledsoe - Photo by Kevin Parry

Suddenly, it’s 2008. Again, we are dealing with the lives of Philip, Oliver, and Sylvia. But the world has changed. These are not the same people depicted in 1958. It’s pretty clear that society doesn’t see them in quite the same way. Fifty years have passed, and there have been huge shifts in viewpoint. Gay is okay, with gay relationships offering the same benefits and stresses as straight relationships. Although the same actors play the key roles, they are not the same people – but rather individuals who have been raised in a different and more accepting time.

Augustus Prew and Jessica Collins - Photo by Kevin Parry

THE PRIDE is a complex tale of changing views towards identity, love, and sexuality. Playwright Alexi Kaye Campbell has crafted a sensitive but sometimes also violent portrait of people caught up in their sociocultural environment. A few laughs are thrown in by the fourth cast member (Matthew Wilkas) who pops up just in time to offset the occasional maudlin mood. The talented cast effortlessly projects the wide range of emotions called for in this piece. Skillfully directed by Michael Arden, the production will clearly resonate with today’s audiences.

Augustus Prew and Matthew Wilkas - Photo by Kevin Parry

Changing time fluctuations are cleverly suggested by Danae Iris McQueen’s costume designs, while Michael Arden does double duty as director and scenic designer. The simple setting is a theater in the round. On a reflective glass stage are several transparent chairs and low tables which can easily be moved around as the need arises. Travis Hagenbuch’s lighting and Joshua D. Reid’s sound complete the creation and blending of the past and present.

Jessica Collins - Photo by Kevin Parry

Not only are the eras separated by obvious production features, but they are also delineated by the actors as they obliviously stroll past each other or begin to move with exaggerated leisure to denote years passing. Campbell utilizes several intriguing techniques to show this progression of months into years into decades. Unfortunately, they may sometimes be confusing to the audience due to the rapid juxtaposition of past and present – almost like a metronome marking the minutes. Campbell may also be just a bit heavy-handed making his point. Nonetheless, THE PRIDE remains a fascinating study of changing values and attitudes over the years.

THE PRIDE runs through July 9, 2017, with performances at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Fridays, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Lovelace Studio Theater is located at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Tickets range from $40 to $75. For information and reservations, call 310-746-4000 or go online.       

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