BWW Review: Theatre Suburbia Revives THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS
THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS gets a solid revival at Theatre Suburbia with a surprisingly diverse group of actors. It serves as a reminder of what community theater can do best, respark a timely debate with a well written script from a passionate cast. There is much to love, and most importantly it comes at a time when the questions TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS first raised seem even more relevant and palpable. What was once meant to serve counterpoint to the tension between families and sons during the AIDS crisis, now applies to the new political climate which threatens to erase the same prodigal men and women who may need to once again run from their conservative family.
THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS by Jonathan Tolins first premiered in California during 1993. That same year it had a short 29 performance run on Broadway with Jennifer Grey in one of the lead roles. It was eclipsed by the monolithic ANGELS IN AMERICA and an avalanche of gay plays speaking directly to the AIDS crisis with vitriolic voices. It ran contrary to what was happening at the time. TWILIGHT was a simple family drama that never directly addressed the disease, but instead found a way to use a science fiction approach to skirt around the dynamics homosexuality brought into families. It was turned into a seriously reworked 1996 television movie starring Jennifer Beals, Brendan Fraser, and Faye Dunaway which radically retooled the climax.
The play presents an interesting dilemma - what if genetic testing advanced enough that you could tell your baby was going to be gay? Would a straight couple still be willing to have it? During the show a woman has to struggle with this knowledge because her husband works for a company that has cracked that code. She then has to tell her supposedly liberal Jewish mother and father that this is the case. She has a gay brother, and so the debates rage between the family of whether she should keep the child or not. Prejudices fly and impassioned pleas fall on either side of what to do. The irony is gay children come from heterosexual parents in most cases, and it is almost always a struggle. What if you could avoid that? What would you do with that knowledge and would it be an easy decision one way or the other?
Director Amanda Garcia Faul has accidentally revved up the spotlight on the homophobia issues by assembling a multi-racial colorblind cast to perform for her interpretation of the piece. The daughter is played by Linsday Lee Boyd, and the parents are Phyl Deany and Rob Lowe and these three represent who we might expect in the roles. They play three white Jewish New Yorkers with a certain amount of monetary means who represent your typical country club set. Where the twist comes is casting Francisco Guzman as the son who is Hispanic and Robert Jamerson, Jr. as the husband who is black. These two actors add diversity and eliminate other prejudices that might creep in save for the central conceit of homophobia. It's a smart move that elevates one intriguing scene where the mother considers whether someone would chose to be born gay or black. A white mother with a black son-in-law posing the question to her gay Hispanic son is far more powerful than if the cast were all one race. Suddenly we have to ask how far her prejudices subconsciously reach into her own family.
Phyl Deany disappears completely into the role of the Jewish mother who thinks she is liberal but has horrifying homophobic and racial prejudices. She's never ill-intentioned, and we feel the pain of her dilemma. But at the same time, she sweetly delivers the statements that make the heads of the audience explode. Rob Lowe as the father fulfills the same type of purpose. He's a nice enough guy, but his world view is narrow enough to regard his gay son and his relationship as "lesser than" his straight daughter's. These two are not monsters in any stretch of the imagination, just people of a certain age clinging to what they think is right despite any other insights. The genius of their performances are that we love them unconditionally, but start to see the cracks in their moral character. Both actors do this without any judgement, and they do their jobs beautifully. You couldn't ask for better to bring the heads of the Golds to life.
Lindsay Lee Boyd and Robert Jameson Jr are the happy couple celebrating three years of marriage who suddenly have to face this tough decision. Lindsay excels at playing the quiet moments of dismay that eventually lead to her outbursts of hormonal anguish. You feel her confusion and frustration about what the decision says about the love for her brother and her baby. Her performance is honest and heartfelt. Robert Jameson Jr. speaks so eloquently with conviction, and he brings much sense to the table as the corporate scientist husband. He is brilliantly cast, and I loved hearing his lawyer-like cadence deliver the show's arguments about what science can mean when informing us of our choices. He is the factual voice of the play, yet he infuses it with a fascinating passion that elevates the role. His performance is perfect and poised.
Francisco Guzman as the homosexual son interprets his part brilliantly. In a role often played high strung and angry, he has chosen to calmly express why the world should love a baby that will be like him. He provides a 2018 take to a 1993 role, and it works like gangbusters. He accepts himself enough to make his plea and his decisions with a surety of his identity. It takes some of the anger out of TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS and updates it a bit more with where this man and the world might be later. He eschews typical acting to convey an inner peace and love that so few would find.
The set of the show is well executed with its distinctive Ikea from 1993 aesthetic intact. Lighting and sound play a nice role in the show as well as opera swells and a huge picture window behind our characters changes hues to reflect the mood of monologues characters deliver between scenes. Technically this TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS is well done and handsome.
The play retains the 1993 setting and it must with the references culturally and the attitudes of the characters to race and sexual identity. It was fun to hear the audience debate during intermission whether the play represented an isolated time where everyone has moved past this. I suspect most audience members will feel this way, but perhaps TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS still has much to say given the current discussions on how people need to be treated. Unfortunately we live in an age where many would like to see rights removed from certain groups, and the fight continues in families no matter how much we feel the enlightenment has come to our era.
Theatre Suburbia does a fine job with TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS. It's well-directed, well-cast, and gives modern audiences a gentle reminder that progress is hard fought and slippery at best. It can be seen as a period piece that we are glad to be over, but I am afraid there are plenty or people out there who would love to make America GOLDEN once more.
THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS runs through May 12th at Theatre Suburbia. Friday and Saturday evening shows are at 8:30pm and Sunday matinees are at 3pm. For reservations call (713) 682-3525 or head to the website at www.theatresuburbia.org .