Based on the real-life organization Exodus International, which "ministers the transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ to those affected by homosexuality," Kevin K. Berry’s Six Men explores the battles of six guys grappling with issues of homosexuality, religion, and identity. Meeting regularly in a church basement, these confused souls reflect on their homosexuality and past relationships under the guidance of a hustler-turned-evangelist who advocates Christianity as a cure for gayness. Through a mosaic of quick-paced episodic vignettes, relationships are formed, broken, and forever changed as these men probe the implications of trying to love, to be a good Christian, and to understand one’s homosexuality.
While the writing was energetic and thoughtful, and the direction showcased an admirable use of time or space, the production suffered due to a lack of originality and a dearth of genuine moments. Characters were central to this issue play, yet all of them were dated and predictable. What compelled them to keep returning to the meetings was unclear, since stimulation came about in spite of the group’s leader rather than because of him. More problematic was the characterizations being less about exposure and action than about presenting exposition and exploring themes.
Simon (Scott Saffer) is the group’s leader, a "reformed" homosexual who spouts out clichéd preacher advice that clashes with his own unresolved gay leanings. Andy (Chuck Worthington) is a flamboyant, self-destructive kid who finds friendship and solace with the group’s more senior and seasoned member, Philip (Gary Dooley). Tom (Michael Soriano) and Jim (Daniel MacMunn) are the group’s "straighter" members who together examine urges toward homosexuality and question romantic relationships past and present. In spite of the platitudes and mundane Bible readings Simon offers the group, friendships form and hints of romance blossom during the meetings. Yet it is the arrival of antagonistic John (Jordan Deas) that really challenges the validity of the group and of Simon.
Many themes are explored in the play, including what makes up one’s sexuality and how does sexual orientation shape personality. What ironically is not really challenged is the notion that one chooses homosexuality and that one can be cured of it. In addition, the presentational style of raising these issues contributed flatness to the play’s action.
While direction impressively handled the rapid-fire scene changes over many locales, it never got beyond the mechanics of presentation. Performances were largely two-dimensional and under-rehearsed. The actors mostly uttered lines to each other, weakening relationships and lowering the play’s stakes. During moments of potential jeopardy when romantic bonds were threatened, the actors resorted to TV-style melodrama.
Set design (uncredited) was essentially non-existent, creating another limitation on a fast-moving play that needed to establish various settings to move the action forward. The lighting (Aaron J. Mason), sound, and costume (both uncredited) designs were functional but unimaginative.
(Also featuring Amanita Heird and Faye Bankler.)
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Copyright 2001 Adam Cooper