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Well-balanced performances of talented cast make "Twilight of the Golds" a must-see.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Today’s more enlightened attitudes toward homosexuality make “Twilight of the Golds” seem a bit behind the times. Fortunately, that doesn’t diminish the power of Showtimers’ production of Jonathan Tolins’ drama, now in its final week. David Colatosti’s taut direction and the well-balanced performances of a talented cast have turned it into must-see community theater.
The play is set in the mid-1990s. It was a time of “Seinfeld,” the inspiring Nelson Mandela story and “Forrest Gump,” but also the Oklahoma City bombing, the lurid O.J. Simpson saga and the curse of AIDS/HIV.
“Twilight” was warmly reviewed in out-of-town trials, but crucified by New York critics when it opened there in 1993. To the dismay and puzzlement of the young playwright, then still in his twenties, the play survived for fewer than three dozen off-Broadway performances.
The Golds are a family of mildly prosperous New York Jews: Walter and Phyllis, their son David (Kevin McAlexander), his beloved sister Suzanne and her husband, Rob Stein. As they are about to leave for dinner one evening, Suzanne (Amanda Cash) announces that she is pregnant. Everyone is rapturously pleased except Rob (Rafe Telsch). He’s miffed because his wife didn’t tell him ahead of time.
More seriously, he’s troubled because of an unannounced breakthrough at the genetics lab where he works. It’s a test to determine whether a fetus is predisposed to be, as one of the family delicately puts it, “like David.”
David, you see, is openly and contentedly gay.
(The test is said to be fictional; if it exists today, no one knows except a few scientists — and probably the NSA.)
Suzanne undergoes the test. The results are not as the young couple had hoped. They understandably are devastated. Do they opt for abortion, or proceed with the birth at the risk of having to submit their child to a lifetime of discrimination and social stigma?
As Suzanne and Rob grapple with their dilemma, the other Golds pitch in their two cents, sometimes without being asked. Especially David, who is horrified that abortion would even be considered. What would that say about him? Has he no value, as a gay man, to his own family? What, he wonders, would his parents have done had they the option of the test?
The drama plays out against the stentorian tones of Wagner’s “Twilight of the Gods” (thus Tolins’ punning title). The opera’s relevance, tenuous at best for this reviewer, is best left for David to explain. A Met employee and avid Wagner buff, he does so at near-tedious length. A peculiar background video of ominous clouds and crashing surf in the Showtimers production is distracting and borders on overkill. The Wagner is enough, already.
Cash vividly conveys the anguish of Suzanne, an already indecisive young woman now further torn between fear for her unborn child and loyalty to her brother. Her husband, Rob, is the play’s least likable and least well-defined character, yet Telsch makes him a worthy player in the drama.
And McAlexander, as David, deftly navigates his character’s transformation from insouciant family scamp to deeply shocked and embittered son and brother.
As Walter and Phyllis Gold, Dean Kreyling and Catherine Karp Breske make their Roanoke Valley stage debuts. Both have extensive professional stage experience, according to the playbill, and it shows. The show derives much of its power from their portrayals of good people, loving of their children and liberal by inclination yet no match for certain cultural values of the time.
It should be noted that, in addition to the ensemble scenes, Tolins has gifted the characters with incisive monologues of which the actors wisely take every advantage. In this play, at least, the device is wholly effective.
Showtimers’ “Twilight of the Golds” is exceptionally well done. Do yourself the favor of seeing it.
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