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Questa: On the Road to Find Out

Questa, the new play by Victor Bumbalo, is a frustrating piece of theatre.  The plot is fascinating, and has a lot to say about guilt: Paul, a boyish gay man (Jeremiah M. Maestas), is attacked outside a bar.  He fights back and ends up, in his rage, killing the fagbasher.  He runs from the scene, the only witness Daniel, a homeless man (G. Alvarez Reid), who is in love with him and purposely describes him incorrectly to the police while cadging free donuts.  Meanwhile, Paul flees to the apartment of his sister Susan (Krista Amigone) and her husband Nicholas (Danny Wildman) to freak out and get rid of his blood-spattered clothes; he tells her his story, but they keep it from Nicholas (who was the best friend of Paul's dead boyfriend Kevin), telling him that Paul puked on himself, and that he's joining AA.  Paul, wracked with guilt, begins stalking Lori, the mother of the boy he killed (Dana Benningfield), hoping to bring her some comfort.  She has having an affair with her priest (John Haggerty), and works in a hair salon in the Village that's run by Richard (Jason Alan Griffin), a handsome middle-aged homo with self-esteem issues about his age.  Lori is shocked to discover that her boy was gay (since the police infer that the victim of a fagbashing must be so), and guilty that she wasn't supportive enough of his burgeoning homosexuality, she begins lashing out with homophobic jibes at her gay customers and has to leave her job.  The plot unravels in genuinely unexpected ways, as everyone tries to expiate their guilt.

The writing is patchy- swinging erratically from gorgeous scenes of sublime insight to eye-rollingly stilted soap opera dialogue.  When the play is good, it's very good, but unfortunately that's not all of the time.  Some of the exposition is about as subtle as in my synopsis above: The device of having Daniel, an irritating Magical Negro, being the only character that addresses the audience directly gives Bumbalo a chance to eschew subtext in favor of just telling us what people are feeling.  Some  subplots are brought up then quickly dropped again, leaving me wondering why they were included.

The cast is terrific, for the most part.  Maestas and Benningfield are spectacular, and their scenes together are especially powerful.  Griffin and Haggerty do strong work as Richard and Father James.  Reid does what he can with the archetypal Daniel- his queeny schtick garnered some laughs from the audience the night I was there.  Amigone has some great scenes as Susan, though Wildman doesn't really get a chance to be anything more than a jerk-ass cipher as her husband.

Wings Artistic Director Jeffrey Corrick directs with a firm hand, keeping the action moving swiftly throughout.

It's a gripping and thought-provoking story with complex and powerful characters, and, despite its minor flaws, deserves a bigger audience than the 10 or so that were there last night.

 Questa
Wings Theatre
154 Christopher Street. 
February 23 - March 22, 2008, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays & Mondays at 8, Sundays at 3:30
(No performance Thursday, February 28)

All seats $20.00. Students & Seniors with valid ID may purchase a ticket for only $16. You may purchase tickets online at www.wingstheatre.com or by phone at 212/627-2961.

Photo credit: peterlauphotography.com

1) Jeremiah M. Maestas and Dana Benningfield
2) Jeremiah M. Maestas and Krista Amigone


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