note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Larry Stark
Scenic Design by Crystal Tiala
Lighting Design by Deb Sullivan
Costume Design by David Brooks
Sound Design by Ilah Cibis
Production Stage Manager Meghan Swift
Stage Manager Shira Beckerman
Travis.........Juan Luis Acevedo
Chuck Ranberg sets his play "Last Summer: a beach house on Fire Island, in the Pines, and environs" --- but it's really a nostalgic look backward at that amazingly freeing period, between Stonewall and AIDS, when gay men everywhere came out of their closets to stand tall and proud and demanded to be, however uniquely, human beings with style. His "End of The World Party" is an intimate peek at how gay people interact when alone with one another. And Director Eric Engel has made certain that the whip-snap of wit, bitingly aware and woundingly honest, is the motor of the show.
Impermanence is the curse of the gay world, and promiscuity versus commitment the eternal battleground. The gay sensibility --- shut out of a world where "My Pope wants me dead" --- fights back with a self-deprecating sincerity, a ravenous appetite for even the briefest of unions, a flair for style over substance, and incredible compassion for one another. All get full play here, though the tendency to go for the crushing comment or the funniest twist reigns supreme.
There are two neophytes here --- Eric Anderson as a time-sharer new to Fire Island, and Kieran Smiley as a gorgeous pick-up so young he expects true love at first sight. The others are ageing regulars, familiar with one another's foibles and fears, quick to remember and ever eager to sacrifice truth to style. They know one another too well to lie.
The vignettes of gay life are excellent: a rover admits that the gorgeous hunk he turned on to in the gloom turned out to be ... a tree! A man recovering from his lover's death is astonished at a newby's assertion that "Going bareback once in a while is okay though, right?" the grand party ending the play includes hits of love-inducing Ecstacy-pills, and there are quiet, intimate interludes of watching the moon ("like that stuff in thermometers") on the oily surf.
Christopher Hagberg's Hunter is an illusionless wit, given to cleaning when troubled. Miguel Gonzalez's Nick has sacrificed quality for quantity in his relationships. Will McGarrahan's Will is obsessively hypochondriac ("I'm negative! What the hell am I going to do now?!?"). Bill Mootos' Roger is a sexual competitor willing to find a monogamous relationship --- eventually. And Juan Luis Acevedo's Travis, his lover newly dead of AIDS, is experiencing a new honesty of outlook.
In this gay group emotion is very close to the surface: passion, desire or anger can flair with sudden white heat, and dissipate with a well-barbed quip. Fulfilment of every desire beckons under (or in!) every tree, and if True Love never emerges at least outrageous costumes and withering wit are there to compensate.