Opposites not only attract, they generate Electricity in Terry Ray’s captivating World Premiere tale of two gay men who just happen to meet Same Time Next Decade in the same Ohio motel room from the early 1980s to the present day and (as the song goes) can’t help falling in love.
Like a certain similarly-themed Bernard Slade favorite, Electricity not only charts the course of two decidedly dissimilar characters’ romantic entanglement but the societal changes swirling around them as well.
Unlike Same Time Next Year’s Doris and George, Electricity’s Gary (Ray) and Brad (Kevin Scott Allen) remain virtually incommunicado for ten years at a stretch, a bit more credibility-straining than Slade’s characters’ deliberate pact to reunite annually, but no matter.
With characters as rich as those Ray has created, and performances as ultimately real and touching as those delivered by writer and costar, Electricity grabs its audience from Gary and Brad’s meet-again-cute and holds tight throughout four decades of laughter and anger and heartache and joy, beginning when closeted teetotalling gay virgin Gary Henderson invites school crush Brad Burke to share a Chillicothe motel room with him for their tenth high school reunion, hoping no doubt for some undefined something to happen between them despite his resolute insistence that “wife” Mary Ann sits patiently awaiting his return to Orange County.
Brad’s motives for reuniting with Gary are less clearly defined. The two appear to have had little to do with each other in high school and, as we soon learn, the more outgoing of the two has spent the past ten years hooking up with man after man after man after man in big bad New York City, one-nighters fueled by booze, pills, and cocaine.
Whatever Brad’s reasons, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the more practiced of the two 28-year-olds will be giving lady-doth-protest-too-much Gary his first taste of gay sex before the night is over.
Now all playwright Ray has to do is figure out how to keep the twosome apart for ten years … and then another … and then again another.
If Electricity is at heart the story of one man’s acceptance of his gay identity and another’s of his capacity to love, the play’s examination of a world evolving around them adds considerably to its appeal.
From an era when AIDS equaled death, to the new lease on life HIV-positive men found themselves granted in the mid-‘90s, to the challenges and rewards of increasing gay visibility and acceptance in the new century, to the promise of marriage equality throughout the land, Electricity scores bonus points as a historical primer for those born after the battles waged by Gary and Brad and those who did not survive to reap their rewards.
Under Steven Rosenbaum’s astute direction, Ray’s and Allen’s performances just keep getting better as decades pass. Though the duo try a bit too hard to play it young (1983’s Gary and Brad come across more like teens than men approaching thirty), once the ‘90s have arrived, the two actors have hit their stride, and the richness each character develops (and the electric sparks between them) earn deserved cheers.
Running closer to two hours than ninety minutes, Electricity might benefit from a two-act format or a ten-minute trim.
There can be no quibbling with Tom Early’s believably designed motel room set, one that changes ever so slightly through the decades, or with Preston Landsberg’s skillful lighting, or with Michael Ray Scott’s character-appropriate costumes, or with sound designer Christina Ownby’s smart mix of news bites and musical nostalgia.
Electricity is produced by Michael Darner. Amy Rowell is production manager. Jason Henderson is both front of house and running crew. Casting is by Raul Staggs.
Regional theaters should do their audiences the favor of introducing Electricity to America at large. In the meantime, Angelinos can count themselves lucky to be the first in the country to experience the electricity of Terry Ray’s single-set, two-actor gem.
Two Roads Theatre, 4348 Tujunga Blvd., Studio City.
August 7, 2016