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SCENE AND HEARD
by Randy Gener
Sick With Lust: Fire Island Tales by Andrew Holleran
novelist Andrew Holleran
Starring Stephen Nisbet
Conceived and Directed by Randy Gener
Stories by Andrew Holleran
Sound by Robert Murphy
Costumes by Elly Van Horne
Wig design is by Robert-Charles Vallance
Scenery by Annie Coggan
Performs 10:00 PM Thursdays and Saturdays through August 31. (CLOSED)
Judy's Chelsea, located at 169 Eighth Avenue (between West 18th and 19th
Streets). Tickets $12 at door; also $10 food/drink minimum.
I find it quite fascinating when Andrew Holleran said, in the conversation below, that his most memorable theatrical experience was seeing the late Irene Worth in Andre Serban's legendary production of "The Cherry Orchard" in Lincoln Center. What's fascinating is that it is the same production that actor Stephen Nisbet, who stars in the solo show "Sick with Lust: Fire Island Tales by Andrew Holleran," has similarly pointed out as one of his most memorable evenings in the theatre.
What's more, the ultimate form that "Sick With Lust" takes - on stage the show is structured as a campfire storytelling experience to emphasize the primacy of the actor's relationship to the text - was also suggested by none other than Irene Worth. I have long been a fan of Worth's solo performances, in particular her concert-style rendition of Prosper Merimee's "The Gypsy and the Yellow Canary," the short story which was later adapted into the opera "Carmen." I still remember Worth in George C. Wolfe's elegant production of it, complete with flamenco dancing, several seasons ago at the Joseph Papp Public Theater. Another inspiration was John Gielgud's Shakespearan tour de force, "The Ages of Man."
"Sick With Lust" is a solo theatre interpretation of two short stories written by Holleran, the best-selling novelist of "Dancer from the Dance" and "The Beauty of Men." It juxtaposes two stories about gay life, one adapted from Holleran's 1978 novel "Dancer from the Dance" and the other published in 1999 is the title story of his collection of short stories "In September, the Light Changes."
Stephen Nisbet in the role of
Sutherland in "Sick With Lust." Photo by Frank La Rocca.
In a sense, these two pieces reflect the anthropological and social atmosphere in which they were written. In the first tale, Nisbet recreates the flamboyant character of Sutherland, the sharp-witted disco queen of the 1970's gay circuit scene who takes under his wing a golden-haired young man named Malone and throws a spectacular summer party in the Pines. Sutherland is very much a relic of his time; there are really no drag queens like Sutherland anymore. Everyone is either a pale imitation or a wannabe
In the second tale, a sensuous and thought-provoking story set after Labor Day in the mid-1990's, Nisbet portrays the same narrator who recalls Sutherland but who has since left the circuit and become a writer. Now a much older, middle-aged gay man, he sees the gay world pass him by and reflects on the pursuit of love, the allures of youth, the obsession with sex, the perils of male beauty and the heartrending nature of gay desire at the end of the Fire Island beach season.
Together, the two stories describe and envision the sun-drenched dunes and erotic realm of Fire Island, then and now. Fusing elements of performance art, story theatre, and actual recording of actual sounds of Fire Island, "Sick With Lust" evokes the beauty and pain of the dunes and beach resorts we often go to every year, often as subjective people at different points in our lives. It celebrates the perilous allure of the Island. As Holleran said, "We go to these beach resorts believing in love, and not believing in it -- looking for love, and emphatically not looking for anything of the sort."
RANDY GENER: What's your sign?
ANDREW HOLLERAN: Virgo.
GENER: Do the qualities of that sign fit you?
HOLLERAN: To my dismay they do. I don't know why Virgo is considered an uptight virginal sign, and I guess I do have aspects of Mary Tyler Moore in me. That can't be helped.
GENER: What are you reading right now? Are you enjoying them?
HOLLERAN: I just finished Antonia Fraser's biography of Marie Antoinette. It is so moving. I read it because I just read a biography of E. M. Forster. I was on a biography high, which is like a sugar high. I had to have another good biography good. Now I am reading "Citizens" by Simon Schama. It is a history of the French revolution.
GENER: Are you in a French kick at the moment?
HOLLERAN: The French revolution is such an incredible story. I can't believe there isn't a part of what happened in it that couldn't be turned into a story. You can take it from any viewpoint, and there is one incredible scene after another. To say that it's dramatic is meaningless because it is very bloody and very theatrical and very awful.
GENER: What's your most memorable theatrical experience?
HOLLERAN: Seeing Irene Worth in "The Cherry Orchard" in Lincoln Center. I can remember the set, all the furniture drapes and sheets. All of Charles Ludlam that I saw. And then this is the oddest thing because you can never tell where you can find good theatre: I saw a production of "The Glass Menagerie" at the Hippodrome, which is the state theatre of Gainesville, Florida. The play was done in a very small theatre with equity actors, and it was magic. I just remember walking out of it, thinking, "That is what theatre can do." It was unbelievable. Maybe it was so great because I came in not expecting anything great.
GENER: Do you miss living in New York City? Do you miss "the scene"?
HOLLERAN: I do miss New York. I haven't given it up yet because I come back and I have friends there. But for many years as I was aging and during the 1980s when everyone I knew was dying, it was painful for me to walk down the streets of New York. Oh year, of course, I would n. isolation, peace, quiet, nature. Green. Reading writing. arthimetic
GENER: What do you get from living in Gainesville that keeps you there?
HOLLERAN: Isolation. Peace. Quiet. Greens. Reading. Writing. 'Rithmetic.
GENER: Do you think it is harder for gay men to find a soul mate or lover or partner today than it was ten or twenty years ago?
HOLLERAN: No. I'm convinced that in every generation there's a fixed percent of gay males who finds their lovers or partners for long period of time. I have no basis for saying this, but it probably doesn't change. The people who want lovers do get them. The people who want to live with partners do find them. As for the rest of us who get it or don't want it, or who long for love or can't have it, there's always some inhibiting or disqualifying factor that prevents them from getting it. A friend of mine who is a psychologist said that a patient once came to him, complaining, "I really, really, really, really want a lover." And my friend told him, "No, that's not true, because if you really wanted one, you'd have one."
GENER: Which community in Fire island do you like best -- Cherry Grove or the Pines?
HOLLERAN: You couldn't have one without the other. I got back and forth. You need them both. I tell you, however, that when I go to Fire Island,
GENER: You seem to like Point o' Woods a lot, too. You mention it a lot in the Fire Island stories that comprise our evening.
HOLLERAN: Yes, when I go to Fire Island, I always walk by the beach to Point o' Woods. It's located past Cherry Grove. But Water Island is the dreamiest of all the communities there. I still have friends in Water Island. It's a good hike from the Pines, about 45 minutes more. It's a great walk if you want to clear your head, or if you want a goal for your walk.
GENER: What are you working on now?
HOLLERAN: A book of short stories and a novella.
GENER: Please complete this sentence: It isn't theatre if...
HOLLERAN: If the magic doesn't happen.
Randy Gener conceived and directed "Sick With Lust: Fire Island Tales by Andrew Holleran." Critic-at-large and a founding writer of The New York Theatre Wire, he also writes for The New York Times, The Star Ledger and American Theatre Magazine. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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