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Paulanne Simmons

Gender Identity Times Four


Four Plays: "Veils" by Joe Byers. Photos by Carlo Damocles.

"Four Plays"
A Festival of One-Act Plays on Gender Identity
The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row
410 West 42nd St. between 9th and 10th avenues
Opened Aug. 11, 2006
Tues. thru Sat. 8 p.m., Aug. 26 matinee 2 p.m.
Closes Aug. 26, 2006
Reviewed b y Paulanne Simmons Aug. 22, 2006

Diversity can mean many things. For Diverse City Theatre Company' s Equality Playwright' s Festival, it means " gender identity issues of the 21st century." The festival presents four commissioned one-act plays about sexual orientations that conflict with the dominant culture.

Joe Byers' " Veils," directed by Gregory Simmons, is set in a shabby room in a war-torn town somewhere in the Middle East. Rusty (Randy Falcon) has managed to get a prostitute named Aliyah (Natasha Marco) to come to his room. Their encounter is filled with contradictions. Aliyah will not shake Rusty' s hand because " a woman' s body is not to touch." Rusty informs Aliyah that he' s invaded her country to give her " choices."

Both Rusty and Aliyah have dark secrets concerning their sexual identity which are gradually and painfully revealed as the play unwinds. But in the end it is theses secrets that serve to draw the two together in a realization of their common humanity.

" Onna Field," by Stuart Harris, is about a high school student, Jerry (Victor Lirio) coming to terms with his homosexuality. Directed by Carlos Armesto, the play is set in the office of Coach Chapell (Michael Early).

Campbell' s immediate concern is Jerry' s F in gym and how he can convince the young man of the necessity of raising his grade so he can get into the college of his choice. But their conversation soon takes unexpected, sometimes quite funny turns as Chapell forces the flamboyant Jerry, whose model is probably Oscar Wilde, to reveal his inner turmoil.

Filipina Jorshinelle Taleon-Sonza' s " Cold Flesh," directed by Adam Fitzgerald, is about a woman' s search to find the truth behind her husband' s suicide.

Merna (Liz Casasola), after finally obtaining a green card, comes to the United States from the Philippines to find her husband, Mario (Victor Lirio) dead on the floor. When his mentor, Dr. Lurie (David Newer) informs Merna that he husband was gay, she is not at all surprised, but she is determined to find out how her husband' s sexual orientation played into his suicide.

Finally, Robert Atkins' absurdist " Clean Living," directed by Steven Ditmyer, is a farce based on Clinton' s compromise with his conscience and the U.S. Army, known as " Don' t Ask, Don' t Tell."

The play opens with a young man, George (Adam Schneider) standing naked against a wall, his hands hiding his genitals. It appears he has had an erection in the shower and his commanding officer, Al (David Newer), aided by the trigger-happy MP, Norm (Stephen Buck) want to find out if this means he is gay. The problem is George refuses to answer their questions.

Acted with deadpan earnestness, the play features a disco-dancing sexual sleuth, Calder (Christopher Kromer) who is called in to tempt George into revealing his true sexual leanings.

Although all of these plays have rough edges in their writing and execution (" Veils" is both the best written and best directed), they all show the originality and energy that make Diverse City Theater a company to watch.

Diverse City Theater is still in its youth, but it exhibits the kind of thoughtfulness in the face of difficult subject matter one would like to see more of in today' s theater. The company is willing to shock but also understands the appropriate limits of theater. (After all George does modestly hide his private parts.)

They also seem to know that sometimes it' s best to laugh at what we can' t cure.


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