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Glenda Frank


"Pieces" by Chris Phillips.
Directed by Brian Zimmer.
Encore performances begin on Friday, September 7 at SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street (bet 6th Ave & Varick), NYC.
FRI 9/7 at 9:30pm; Sun 9/9 at 8:00pm; Wed 9/12 at 8:00pm; Thurs 9/13 at 7:00pm; Sun 9/16 at 8:00pm and Mon 9/17 at 8:00pm.
Tickets are $18 at (212) 691-1555 or www.SohoPlayhouse.com.
Originally staged in New York at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St.
5 performances as part of the 16TH New York International Fringe Festival.
For more information: <www.piecestheplay.com>

Chris Phillips may be the new voice of gay drama. Although he is young in his career, he has received awards from GLAAD and Robert Chesley Foundation, which supports LGBT playwrights. "the things i cannot change" (from his play "revolver") was chosen for the 2011 Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. His second play "Elysian Fields," was presented at the 2011 New York International Fringe Festival. "Pieces," his latest production, a transfer from Los Angeles, also played at the 2012 Fringe Festival and has been selected for the Encore series.

Like Larry Kramer, whose "The Normal Heart," not only changed the dialogue but recruited scores of new activists and donors in the fight against AIDS, Phillips is an angry guy. Or at least Rory Dennis (Jonathan Gibson), the protagonist of "Pieces," is enraged, fuelled by the many wrongs he so articulately rails against. Lucky for him, Nick Goff (Joe Briggs), a popular gay blogger, finds him very sexy -- so between the eloquent outbursts, Rory discovers new trust and love.

But "Pieces" tells no Adam and Steve story. It opens with Shane covered in blood -- after the gruesome murder of a high-flying, 55 year old Hollywood producer. It seems like an open and shut case. Rory was not assigned to defend the murderer; he volunteered although conviction is a sure thing. Shane Holloway (Chris Salvatore) was caught with the saw he used to dismember his former lover's body. The plot may look like sensationalism for its own sake -- like many other Fringe productions -- but this one is the exception. Phillips is after a deeper truth, about moral responsibility. He has a lot to say about success, ego trips, the gay world, relationships, and discrimination -- and not what you might expect. His is a fresh, intelligent voice and the story he tells is a human tragedy.

While Rory investigates, the whole Hollywood gay community comes under scrutiny. The pretty boys, too young to know their own minds but easily seduced by money, drugs, and flattery. The aging men who use and discard their boy toys. The resentful wannabes, like Dennis, an entertainment lawyer until he was fired. The flashy queens. And the insecure working guys who want something that may last longer than one night.

In the end, against all odds, Phillips finds the tragedy in Shane's story. You're with these characters all the way. It's all exciting and affecting, as few dramas are these days. Very fine direction by the young Brian Zimmer and excellent performance by Gibson, Briggs, Salvatore, Paolo Andino as Shane's friend who watches the tragedy unfold and does nothing, and Nina Millin as Dennis's best friend.

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