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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review- Running (The Milk Can Theatre Co.)

The Fab Marquee review by Antonio Miniño.

“Coming Out” plays are beginning to seem a thing of the past. Even though the red states are still far behind the rest of the world, many countries have begun not only accepting gay life as a part of mainstream culture, but allowing gay marriage. Now that even Cuba –under the leadership of Raul Castro- announces that they are working against homophobia, we can see that things have changed since the early eighties when AIDS was known as the gay cancer. As a culture changes, so must its theater. Sadly the brave plays of the eighties and early nineties seem outdated. Even Angels in America must concede that the millennia no longer approaches. I was pleased to discover when I saw Running by Sharon E Cooper, that her piece–about a man forced into coming out to his mother–had listened to the changes in the air and attempted to write a contemporary take on the “coming out” play.

The play centers around what happens when Gregg’s boyfriend, Junior, shows up at his fathers funeral—only to find out that Gregg has still not come out to his mother at the age of thirty-two. The first thing Ms. Cooper did was to examine what is at the heart of her piece. Rather than simply being about a man tortured by the demons of homosexuality, Ms. Cooper wrote a protagonist who was simply afraid to do anything organically. Cooper also created a fun twist in writing a mother who is fine with homosexuality. The core problem in their relationship is that they do not know each other. Running became more about a mother and son struggling to trust each other than anything else. So, high praise must go to the writer for that.

Lance R. Marshall as Junior & Ryan Clardy as Gregg.

As Gregg, Ryan Clardy proved an adept actor. The role of a troubled young man is always difficult. The likeability of someone so tortured is always difficult to find, and Clardy was charming in the seat. Katherine Alt Keener was endearing as the Kentucky bred Maryann. Her sweet naiveté proved genuine. A marvelous standout was Willie Mullins as Sandy—Junior’s best friend who tags along for the drama. Mullins soared in the comic scenes where he teaches Maryanne how to be a cheerleader. He proved equally deep when he had to revel that even he has secrets.

The problem of the play comes in the form of the boyfriend, Junior. By no fault of actor Lance R. Marshall, the character seems so narcissistic and self-involved that any empathy one might have for the relationship is often replaced with contempt. Junior is constantly talking about himself and seems completely unaware when loved ones confess true feelings to him. I feel that Cooper was attempting to make each character flawed in the realities of life. And she succeeded in three of the four. The other characters had redeeming qualities while I could not find any in the fourth. It is hard to like a man when he discusses ending a relationship the day after his lover buries his father. The characters’ main reason is that he is ready to have children and is not sure Gregg will ever be able to be on the same page. The love scenes seemed also forced—but perhaps because one of the characters was so disingenuous.

Overall, the play was a delightful breath of fresh air. Pat Diamond’s direction seemed organic and the staging was fluid. The set, by Anne Bartek was light and peaceful—obviously reflecting the home Maryanne thinks she lives in. One can always see change in a country when you look at the growth in its art.

The Milk Can Theatre Company presents
Sharon E. Coopers’
May 2-17, 2008 (show has now closed)
For more information on the company, visit

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