Monday, September 27, 2010

A Play: "Don't Ask"--A San Francisco Album

While we were in San Francisco, we took a chance on a new play called "Don't Ask",  performed at the New Conservatory Theater Center on Van Ness Ave.

"The mission of The New Conservatory Theatre Center is to champion innovative, high quality theatre experiences for youth, adults and artists, to effect personal and societal growth, enlightenment and change."

We discovered the theater by chance one afternoon as we were making our way back to the streetcar after an afternoon exploring City Hall and the surrounding Civic buildings.  I admit that the advertising postcard inside the theater box office peaked our interest.  The play was part of their Pride series, and since we had a free evening that weekend, we decided to  support this small theater, and possibly have a stimulating theatrical experience in the company of others from the gay community.

The one-act, two character play set in Iraq involves a private and his superior, their dangerous sexual relationship, and the power games and blackmail that ensue. 

It did not directly confront the issue of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" as I expected.  Rather, the playwright, Bill Quigley, tried to set up a situation of deception and betrayal at the rotten extreme of where DADT may lead. I don't think he was entirely successful in drawing a parallel between the central incident (described in monologue) of the brutal "invasion" (assault) of an Iraqi prisoner, with the immorality of the war. And the shift in power between the closeted commanding officer and the delusional private was not given the proper build-up.

Part of the problem was in the direction.  The actors began in their climactic modes, and so what was meant to be a cunning role-reversal never played that way. The actors, Adrian Anchondo as the private and Ryan Hough as his superior, were uneven; Anchondo had the larger role dialog-wise and was the mouthpiece for the playwright's message; Hough was almost too low-key (except in his intense bursts of physicality) and delivered most of his thankless lines in a clenched, Clint-Eastwood glower.

The play itself had many dead spaces, and ended abruptly, albeit powerfully at the blackout.

And yet...I enjoyed the experience, even if the play itself left me lacking.  To have the opportunity to support work by new playwrights, directors and performers is exciting.  There is an added sense of anticipation in such an intimate setting: the auditorium had barely 75 seats.  And even a mediocre play done on this small, intimate scale provides other aspiring writers to turn out even better work.

I felt a great connection to the theater staff and the patrons around us, and in one more way, I imagined myself as truly a part of a community of San Franciscans that would someday welcome me and Mark with open arms.

Click on this link to see some scenes from "Don't Ask".

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tom,
    Thank you for your insight and for sharing this clip. I used to naively believe DADT was possibly a way to protect people from the discrimination and cruelty that some inflict on LGBT in the military. As I learn more about it and hear stories of personal belongings being searched and people's rights trampled upon, I realize how wrong I have been. I have also come to realize that by its very nature, DADT tramples upon the feelings of folks who want to live their lives in the open, not hiding and denying who they are. Getting dismissed from military service once a person is exposed is unconscionable. We went to the Lady Gaga concert recently in Hartford, CT and she spoke of such stories as she tried to rally her supporters to call Senators regarding DADT. On an aside, I never understood the meat dress thing either. She explained it to the audience that night just like she explained it to Ellen. But as an animal lover, I can't bear to think of all the animals (farm and otherwise) who are tortured, killed, raised for the sole purpose of eating, fighting, etc. So this is all meant to say I am learning alot about DADT and I thank you for offering me even more insights and education.