Little Secrets is the story of Donny & Jarrett, two very different boys who meet at a Florida University. Donny Flood (Patrick Cavanaugh) enters his freshman year at college excited and eager to do well in school. He has little chance to settle in before his upperclassman roommate, Jarrett Sinclair (Peter Berube), enters, laying down the law according to the world of Jarrett. Coming from money, Jarrett has no real academic goals or aspirations, unlike Donny whose goal is to be an English teacher.
Being the open, easygoing guy that Donny is, he entertains Jarrett’s rambling even though he sounds as if he as rehearsed everything he is saying. Oh, and there is also the small fact that he goes on so much that most of the time, Donny hasn’t a clue what Jarrett actually is talking about. But Jarrett seems content to keep talking, concerned first that Donny is listening to him, but not to worry about Donny’s comprehension.
This goes on for two weeks, at which point Donny is completely feed up with Jarrett’s nonstop chatter about movie and family and things that the freshman could not give two heaps about. Just as he is about to flee to the library for some peace to study, Jarrett baits him with a piece of personal and tragic information about his sister. Having confided something to Donny, Jarrett insists that Donny do the same. Jarrett needles Donny until he admits to having fooled around with a guy as teenagers; “an affair” that lasted for several months. Immediately, Jarrett uses that secret to manipulate Donny to do whatever he wants, lest Jarrett reveal Donny's unsavory behavior to his mother and perhaps Peter Tinberg himself. Suddenly, Donny is held hostage as Jarrett’s new favorite toy and only best friend, lest he be revealed as possibly being homosexual.
OK. The thing you have to remember is: the year is 1962. Back then, people’s reputations and family names meant something. We were not the suspicious, guarded society that we are now. In that recent past, it was common to take a person at their word, until they gave you a reason to mistrust them. In 1962, we still had rotary phones and the Internet was an idea in its infancy somewhere in Russia. In 1962, the Stonewall Riots are another seven years away from marking the Gay & Lesbian community’s entrance into the fight for its civil rights.
When you take all that into account, is understandable how Donny Flood could believe a little secret like his can be completely devastating. He has the weight of the shame of his actions, however innocent they may have been. He has the responsibility of protecting Peter Tinberg’s good name. He doesn’t want to break his mother’s heart. And, arguably the worst part, it might be true, he might be Gay. When weight all these factors on the shoulders of a mere 19-year-old, it is easy to see how he could be reduced to Jarrett’s puppet, and the emotional mess that follows.
The key to a great villain is that him/her does not sees themselves as the villain. Peter Berube plays upperclassman Jarrett with shades of my favorite sociopath, Misery’s Annie Wilkes; everything he does is for Donny’s own good. Introducing him to classic horror films, taking him to lectures, all steps to save him from becoming part of the invisible, ignorant masses, much like Donny’s only other college acquaintance, Tim Strasser (played gallantly by Trevor Parsons). Berube expertly rifles off Jarrett’s many rants and speeches with elitist pomposity, while still adding a distinct layer of something dark and dirty beneath. You can almost see him feeding off of the control he is squeezing out of poor Donny. It’s unsettling. Well done.
I love the irony that Jarrett cannot stand to be touched and yet at every opportune moment, he offers to give Donny a back rub. There is no doubt that he is in therapy and on medication to try and repress his own homosexual tendencies. How else would he so quickly zero in now Donny’s potential predilection?
Patrick Cavanaugh was terrific. The long periods of listening are filled with thought and anguish, and Cavanaugh doesn’t check out for a second. He gives an extremely focus, measured, engaging performance that ranges from a withered weakling to eruptions of rage to hopeless desperation. We can see his strength and will slowly being stripped from him. He plays each note of Donny Flood's broad emotional arc beautifully. Again, truly well done.
I was not aware of the 36-seater theater called “The Space” until I attended this production. The tiny performance space is located on Heliotrope between Vermont and Normandie, just south of Melrose. In fact, if you blink, you’ll miss it. Don’t blink. And don’t miss this show.
Little Secrets runs now through November 18, 2007
Performances are Fridays & Saturdays @ 8pm, Sundays @7pm
Presented by Dreamhouse Ensemble @
665 Heliotrope Drive
Hollywood, CA, 90004
For information call: 323-661-2585
Photo Credit: Jeff Smith