Straight by Scott Elegreen and Drew Fornarola is rather like a US version of British writer Mike Bartlett’s Cock (sometimes more politely known as The Cockfight Play). It’s about a sexually ambivalent single man—in this case, one who has been in a too-long-stagnant relationship with a woman who wants “more”; and who begins a secret affair with a younger man. (In Cock, it's reversed; he's in a stagnant longtime relationship with an older man, and has started an affair with a young woman.) He’s torn between the heat of passion and the warmth of familiarity. And both are an intermissionless 90 minutes that take place over extended periods of time
The difference is that Straight doesn’t utilize overt, arguably pretentious symbolism (Cock was staged in a bare arena, given the ambience of a cockfight); it’s a straight-ahead (pun perhaps intended) comedy of mores, manners and sexual politics. And it’s funnier. And there are only the three characters (in Cock, a parent is called in as mediator). Configurations of age and personality and how the dynamics are navigated are different as well, and the central character in Straight is both more mature and perhaps—also arguably—a little less selfish, because he is at least increasingly painfully aware of the harm he’s doing to both his lovers by refusing to decide.
But there is a surprisingly similar denouement. I don’t remotely mean to imply influence, or that the authors of Straight have directly or indirectly borrowed from Mr. Bartlett. There’s every reason to believe that its authors wrote Straight without any, ahem, exposure to Cock. But it’s fascinating and curious that both plays should leave you with the same takeaway. Which is only another kind of ambivalence.
The cast—Jake Epstein as the what-am-I guy in the middle, plus Jenna Gavigan and Thomas Sullivan—are quite fine; and Andy Sandberg’s direction is a huge improvement over the previous work of his that I’ve seen. Instead of begging for laughs, he takes refuge in character, easy naturalism and verisimilitude, which allows the comedy to take care of itself. May his future work continue in a similarly truthful vein.
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