BWW Reviews: NO HOMO Examines Whether You Have to Be Homosexual to be Really, Really Gay
NO HOMO swept the Hollywood Fringe Festival Closing Night Awards this year, winning The Golden Elephant Award for Golden Playwright (Brandon Baruch); the Ezra Buzzington Spirit of the Fringe Award for Best Director (Jessica Hanna); the Fringe Freak Award for Best in Ensemble Theater; the Fringe Freak Award for Fringe First - Best World Premiere. The play was also awarded the Encore Producers' Award and received three extension performances at Theatre Asylum (6320 Santa Monica Blvd) on July 25, July 30, and July 31, all performances at 8pm.
NO HOMO tells the tale of Luke and Ash, two 20-something Los Angeles urbanites who have known each other since childhood, identify as heterosexual, and live together as roommates even though their relationship pushes the boundaries of gay life. Ash (lithe blond Jonny Rodgers) loves to cook and run around half naked while Luke (Benjamin Durham) focuses on his career and new girlfriend, the totally clueless Babette (Elizabeth Ellson).
Can two men really be the best of friends, love each other, and not be gay? Given the fluid nature of sexuality today, does it really matter which way you go? The important thing is to decide, and what makes this play so universal is that it focuses on the inner turmoil within the minds of these two men who worry more about what the world will think of them than how they really wants to live their lives together.
Added into the mix is Chrissy (Karen Baughn), Luke's loudmouth sister who we meet the night she decides to come out as a lesbian. Not only does her declaration throw Luke a curve, she also tells Babette the following day that Luke is gay, which Ash denies. Of course poor Babette reasons it out in her mind as true and runs off for a carton of Ben and Jerry's. Seems she has fallen for a gay man before.
The real reason all the friends are out drinking that night is that Ash's gay brother Serge (handsome AJ Jones) has just moved in with his new boyfriend Kris (Henry McMillan, well representing a gay man with loose morals, a wandering eye and a big heart). Serge and Kris struggle to make their relationship work, just as Luke and Ash struggle to define the terms of theirs. And what about poor Babette? How may straight women out there have struggled to work out a relationship, only to find out their boyfriend, or husband, is gay? I personally know more than a few women who have gone through that scenario. It seems there are no easy answers for anyone these days.
With their friends and family refusing to acknowledge the platonic nature of their relationship, eventually Luke and Ash start to question their own sexual identities, leading to a drunken evening that their friendship might not survive. Kudos to director Jessica Hanna for keeping the sense of confusion and fear deep within the scenes between these two men, and to Durham and Rodgers for honestly portraying two men trying to define the terms of their friendship without destroying it. You can feel the tension each time they attempt to have a heart-to-heart talk, just like how much their push me-pull you attraction to each other cannot be ignored.
I especially enjoyed the scene between Ash and Kris in which Ash questions him about being gay and Kris offers a solution involving a room at the Ramada. As Ash walks away after their graphic conversation, Kris chastises him with "You don't get to call yourself straight after this conversation."
Playwright Brandon Baruch explains his inspiration for writing the play: "Growing up in and around West Hollywood, my sexual orientation has never been a big part of my identity. I feel like most LGBT theater, film, and literature concentrates on the characters' struggles to create an identity and find acceptance. But that's simply not my experience. NO HOMO is less about the struggle to accept one's sexual identity than it is about the quest to understand one's sexual identity. It also validates my theory that a person doesn't have to be homosexual to be really, really gay."
NO HOMO will also be featured as an official participant in the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival in August. Get ready to rush for tickets!
Watch the show trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8k1fCzI66Uk
Be Flat Productions and Subject2Change Productions present NO HOMO by Brandon Baruch, Directed by Jessica Hanna, Produced by Max Oken and Brandon Baruch
Featuring: Karen Baughn, Benjamin Durham, Elizabeth Ellson, AJ Jones, Henry McMillan, Jonny Rodgers
NO HOMO plays for 3 more performances only in Los Angeles on Friday, July 25 at 8pm, Wednesday, July 30 at 8pm, and Thursday, July 31 at 8pm at Theater Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90038.
90-minute run time. Tickets: $15.00 general admission.
Tickets are available at www.theencoreawards.com/projects/1568.
For more information visit: www.nohomoplay.com.
Photo Credit: Clarke Surrey
Henry McMillan and AJ Jones.
AJ Jones and Henry McMillan