BWW Review: An Incredibly Emotional LETTERS FROM YOUNG GAY MEN Will Touch the Hearts & Hit the Tear Ducts of Many
A committed group of six actors give depth and much emotions to a collection of correspondence between older mentors and younger mentees of the gay community. Psychotherapist Brian Gleason has cherry picked portions of Rainer Maria Rilke's book "Letters to A Young Poet" and dramatized them to some fine results on stage.
Charles Anteby, Jeffrey Wylie, Terry Houlihan ably portray the elder mentors reading letters from their younger mentees embodied by Joseph C. Baken, Matthew B. Ramos and Jordan Santoro. The younger three read back the seniors' responses. The six performers are paired off by the colored tee-shirts they wear. Anteby with Ramos in orange; Wylie and Baken in green; and Houlihan and Santoro in blue.
Baken has the good fortune of handling the reading of Wylie's character's most insightful advice missives and snatches the spotlight every time he speaks. Baken so owns and is so invested in his monologues, at times I had to pause to question whether he was the 'reader' of the prose, or the 'writer.'
Through no fault of anyone's (just the luck of the draw), sightlines of Studio C's black box theatre hid some of the interactive reactions between letter writer and letter reader. I did manage to catch the entirety of the very telling, wordless interplay between Baken and Wylie. Very nice!
Director John Coppola wisely sprinkles the letter readings with some impactful visuals - the forceful protesting at the end of Act One and the hedonistic partying of the three youths later in the play. The most effective visuals (and audios) being the stylistic gaybashing near the beginning. Simply stunning! More interactions between the letter writer and its reader would be most welcomed. (The consecutive hugging of each pairing felt inorganic.)
Unsure of the need to announce the beginnings of the separate three acts in this less-than-an-hour performance piece. As currently presented, LETTERS FROM YOUNG GAY MEN's a quite admirable work-in-progress most definitely worth your attention and attendance.