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Review: AFTERGLOW at Hudson Theatre

The show features an absorbing script and well-modulated peformances

Review: AFTERGLOW at Hudson Theatre
James Hayden Rodriguez, Nathan Mohebbi,
and Noah Bridgestock

Relationships are complicated. And whether it's marriage, friendship, or with your cat, they become exponentially more complicated when there are more than two people involved, which is what gay married thirtysomethings Josh (Noah Bridgestock) and Alex (James Hayden Rodriguez) discover through their open relationship when Josh breaks the cardinal sin of polyamory: He becomes emotionally attached to one of their friends with benefits. To make things more complicated, they are about to become fathers and their third, Darius (Nathan Mohebbi), is an insecure 25-year-old seeking validation.

The absorbing script by S. Asher Gelman tries to take on the insensitivity and transitory nature of dating in the age of the internet and hook-up apps, though in the end, it's really about the more organic and timeless issues of humans just trying to connect. Gelman gives each of his characters complexity and contradictions that make them real: Josh, an actor and the freer spirit of the main couple, likes surprises (the fact that they're having baby, the sex of the baby, the name of the baby), while Alex, a student, likes things more plotted out so he can understand the world, much like his science experiments at school. And Darius' lack of confidence is relatable to anyone who has survived their twenties.

Review: AFTERGLOW at Hudson Theatre
Noah Bridgestock

Gelman's superb direction gets well-modulated performances from his three actors. Bridgestock has an affability that makes Josh sympathetic even when he is barreling full-force from bad decision to bad decision. Rodriguez has an intensity that he lets simmer internally yet is still fully realized onstage. And Mohebbi walks a wavering tightrope of uncertainty as Darius, feeling with all the intensity of his 25 years, seeks someone to confirm that he is worthy, making that razor's edge harrowing.

The stunning and surprisingly versatile set design by Ann Beyersdorfer is modern and sleek with lots of sharp corners and angles and a square shower right in the center of the stage. It's almost all black and there are mirrors everywhere, including on the floor, which leads to harsh light from all directions and the inability of the characters to avoid facing themselves and their choices. The lighting design by Jamie Roderick and sound design by Alex Mackyol are just as critical to illustrating the emotional turmoil the characters are enduring, creating a stark visual palette and soundscape.

Review: AFTERGLOW at Hudson Theatre
James Hayden Rodriguez
and Noah Bridgestock

Running 90 minutes with no intermission, the show is sexy and sexual (the themes, language and nudity all make this an adult show), and while it seems any story involving open relationships tends to illustrate why they don't work (when there are plenty of them that do, especially among gay men), it's likely because there's simply no drama if everyone is functional and balanced. So while you think you know where AFTERGLOW is headed (and you're right), the characters are so deftly written and compassionately inhabited by the actors that it's still a worthwhile look at a fracturing love affair.

AFTERGLOW is performed at the Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood through June 19. Get tickets at AfterglowLA.com.

Photo credits: Mati Gelman

 


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