We are on a family vacation. The family is slightly non-traditional. It consists of a gay couple, Sam and Andy; the father of Sam, and the mother of Andy. The trip to see the Lightning Field, a large-scale work of art located in southwestern New Mexico, is meant as a bonding experience, but also as a romantic event for Sam to ask Andy to marry him. Once the purpose is revealed, a myriad of emotions are unleashed -- some taking surprising turns. This unique and wonderful play by David Ozanich is by turns fresh and funny, yet dangerous and dramatic. It is wholly theatrical, as when Ozanich brings on a storm, which grows with the intensity of a scene of eruption between the lovers. It is theatricality in the spirit of Tennessee Williams or August Wilson, where intense emotions cause the universe to shift.
These four imperfect people, in their own ways, have sworn devotion to each other despite the storm or storms to come. It is a strong message, so welcome today, for the importance of commitment to one another. Indeed, we walk as half-people if we forsake our opportunities to share the world with each other, and these people choose to share. Sure there are problems: the mother (Bekka Lindstrom) and the father (Ron McClary) are at odds with their sons’ possible marriage. The mother is against it and the father is for it. Moreover, the two “grown-ups” might be attracted to each other. We never find out how far that relationship goes, for the play is turned over to the complicated relationship between the two young men. This gay relationship brings up several contemporary issues common to the cosmopolitan gay male. How do you negotiate open relationships? What is the difference between love and sex and where do they fuse together? Is a city with the highest single population in the U.S. the best place to pursue a committed relationship or must one start over in a simpler environment?
Jared Coseglia directed the play with a masterful hand, sensitivity, and handled difficult and violent scenes with good taste and care. The durable cast handled this lovely play with conviction -- the young men (H. Clark and Cory Grant) standing out as superb in their most emotionally charged scenes. This production was a magnificent example of the power of the theatre, even when produced under the limitations of Fringe Festival conditions. The play is also a testament to the fact that the stories of modern gay life have barely begun to be explored in the theatre. The Lightning Field is a leader in that way, and it is hoped that it will find a bigger and more important venue so that the public really has a chance to embrace it. As for an Off-Off-Broadway offering, The Lightning Field is one of the best productions seen this year.
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Copyright 2005 Michael D. Jackson