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Friday, September 22, 2017

(OUTview AMERICA) RE-view: Powerful performances and rough passion bring intensity to Afterglow, currently making a splash Off-Broadway

by MK Scott

 I don't get to New York often, but when I do I see as much theater as I can. I saw the musical, Bandstand (Sept. 5) during its final week but instead of another musical like Hello Dolly, Dear Evan Hansen, or even Hamilton, I had much anticipation for an Off-Broadway show (Sept. 6) that is now the talk of the country and which has now been extended for two more months.

As the synopsis on the Afterglow website states: 'Afterglow is a raw, one-act play exploring the emotional, intellectual, and physical connections between three men and the broader implications within their relationships.

'Josh and Alex, a married couple in an open relationship, invite Darius to share their bed one night. When a new intimate connection begins to form, all three men must come to terms with their individual definitions of love, loyalty, and trust as futures are questioned, relationships are shaken, and commitments are challenged.'
 Afterglow, written and directed by S. Asher Gelman, is like watching queer cinema, being presented live with a compelling voyeuristic view of sex, intimacy and trust.

The play opens with a big bed on stage, and under the sheets we see three men, all naked, the two older men taking turns with Darius (Patrick Reilly), the younger man in the group. Josh (Brandon Haagenson) is married to Alex (Joe Chisholm) and they want to solidify their relationship with a baby.

Later, when given an equal chance, Alex and Josh each have their way with Darius in the shower.

Both Josh and Alex want to keep Darius around, but Josh really falls for Darius and even gives him money for rent without telling Alex about the arrangement.

Trust and a level of maturity become issues, where Josh is clearly not ready to settle down and start a family, compared to Alex who is: So the topic is should sex in the relationship outweigh the trust and intimacy?

The set by Ann Beyerdorfer is interesting. In the first scene we have a bed, which is later transformed into a walk-in shower, and then the shower is reconfigured to become blocks that function as furniture: Is this a metaphor for blocks of a relationship?

Even though the ending was open ended (most of queer cinema seems to be these days), each actor had a 'wow' moment.

With powerful performances of raw and deep emotion, this one-act play is surely going to fill up playhouses around the country. Hey, it would even make a great movie someday.

S. Asher Gelman's Afterglow is now playing at The Loft at the Davenport Theatre in New York through Nov. 18. More info at afterglowtheplay.com.

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