Up the lazy river in the noonday sun

Nile Blue

Book and lyrics by Clint Jefferies
Music by Paul L. Johnson
Directed by Jeffery Corrick
Wings Theatre
154 Christopher Street (212/627-2960)
Equity showcase (closes Apr. 12)
Review by Jade Esteban Estrada

Wings Theatre Company stepped up their standards in musical quality and set design with their latest contribution to New York's gay theatre tradition, Nile Blue. In an imagined view of what love might have been like for gay men back in the days of Ancient Egypt, this LGBT establishment has fashioned a gay Aida.

Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep are buried in their tomb for many years before someone verbalizes their names and accidentally brings them to life. When they awaken, they reminisce of their own time and of their hidden love for each other. They revisit the ups and downs of their lives, and the result is a winning story with fantastic scenery.

In what seemed at first to be a Unity Fest reunion, Ivan Davila (Niankhkhnum) and Karen Stanion (Asru) played a middle-class working couple who come to own a Syrian slave. The slave, Khnumhotep (Jay Lawrence Kiman), falls madly in love with his master and seduces him on a trip. They become secret lovers and experience all the normal dramas of hiding in odd and uncomfortable places for a few stolen moments of intimacy.

Although it seemed at times that the music was more of an interruption to the even-paced storyline, some of the songs, like Nile Blue and Living Apart, were hypnotic and appealing. 

Kiman displayed a pleasant singing voice. This actor churned out a raw, animalistic charm and energy that was immediately intriguing. Davila's good looks were his weapon of choice, but it was his rough-around-the-edges appeal and admirable singing that left the deepest impression.

But the indisputable star of the show proved to be the potently show-stopping Stanion, who made her mere few entrances and exits count. She plopped into her first scene with such comic grandeur that she made the audience laugh before she ever uttered a word of dialogue. Wearing a black Cleopatra wig, her command of the ill-tempered wife was masterful and hilarious.

Shydel James played a convincing Michael, a college intern who is participating in the excavation, while Roberto Camberio was also very firmly established as the slave trader.

Jefferies has written a believable and human play with a happy ending,although it is laden with dated vulgarities that seemed unnecessary to the tender storyline. The tumultuous arguments resulting from the tiniest of quarrels between the two lovers were fascinating to watch.

One of the cool and refreshing aspects of this production was Renee Molina's lighting design. Each scene was bathed in a blue or pink glow that gave Sam Sommers's glorious underground set a magical feel.

Tom Claypool's period costumes were sexy and showcased the attractive performers well.

The story of true love is one that never becomes unexciting,no matter how many times it is told. This production may have the usual flaws associated with any Off-Off Broadway venue, but the heart and soul presented in Nile Blue were sweet and memorable.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Music: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 1
Sets: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Jade Esteban Estrada