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A CurtainUp Review
The Last Sunday in June

by Les Gutman

Last Sunday In June Gets a Second Life at the Century Center

Enough theater goers and critics liked what they saw at the Rattlestick to suggest that it deserved life after its six-week run on Waverly Place. And so, starting April 1st, it moves north to the beautiful, and larger Century Center (111 E. 15th St., 212-239-6200) for an open-ended run. Same cast and creative team. Show times: Tues to Sat at 8pm; Saturdays at 4pm and Sundays at 3pm-- $55. I'll report back on the transfer after the official April 9th opening. -- Elyse Sommer, 3/28/03
After twenty-five years, everything has changed about gay life. Except the Gay Pride Parade.

The history of modern gay theater (I'm setting Oscar Wilde outside of this definition) begins with Mart Crowley's The Boys in the Band, passes through Terrence McNally's Love! Valor! Compassion! and now arrives at The Last Sunday in June. But although Jonathan Tolins, best known for his Twilight of the Golds, pays homage to his forebears, his play has a distinctly post-everything flavor.

It's not that it lacks the markers of the quintessential gay play -- they are celebrated humorously and in abundance. But what Tolins has attempted is to move forward, to depict a culture that has moved on, in its head at least, since the days of gay liberation and AIDS. What he ends up proving, in large part, is that "the more things change, the more they stay the same".

The familiar setting is the West Village apartment shared by Michael (Johnathan McClain), a lawyer, and Tom (Peter Smith), a school teacher. They've been a couple for seven years, and soon they will be fleeing to Nyack, abandoning the Christopher Street beachhead of "old" gay culture. Today the Gay Pride Parade marches outside their window, but their agenda is to escape to the more evolved gay mecca of Pottery Barn. Then the phone rings, and Joe (David Turner), a young actor, calls and wants to come over. Before you can snap a finger, a full-fledged party is in gear, as Brad (Arnie Burton), an HIV+ friend struggling to remain young and vibrant and who is a writer at Entertainment Weekly, Charles (Donald Corren), an older opera queen, James (Mark Setlock), Michael's ex and the author of a gay novel who is the angry thorn in the side of this party when he announces he is abandoning gay culture altogether and getting married to Susan (Susan Pourfar), who also shows up later, and Scott (Matthew Wilkas), the obligatory shirtless hunk, arrive as well.

Tolins does several things quite well, so well in fact that they quickly begin to work at cross-purposes with one another. He evokes the cross-section of characters and their interaction exceptionally well, and his writing is chock full of wry, often bitchy jokes. (Chief among these is a running gag in which the characters answer the question of what would happen next if we were writing a gay play about ourselves by anticipating this play's action.) Although he teases the cultural model with trenchant observation, he undercuts it with punchline after punchline. It's not that the latter is unentertaining; the disappointment is that Tolins was on the edge of something terrific, and settled instead for more of a parody. His choice, of course, but not one I'm going to forcefully applaud. As disclosure of infidelities sends the relationship of Michael and Tom into a tailspin, the ending plays out a bit too publicly, and then a bit too promptly, to be believed much less appreciated.

I can be more vigorous in my praise for the performances, which are uniformly on point, and generally well-calibrated. McClain and Smith play bass notes as a symphony of voices are heard: Turner and Burton play the high notes, Corren adds a fittingly mature tone, Setlock sings in an emphatic and unbreakable counterpoint while Wilkas offers a few surprises. Trip Cullman's direction is sure-footed, even if I might have preferred a little less loyalty to Tolins' comedic punctuation. The vision of his designers is on target throughout.

James asks, "Do you have to turn everything into a fag joke?"

The Last Sunday in June
by Jonathan Tolins
Directed by Trip Cullman
with Arnie Burton, Donald Corren, Johnathan McClain, Susan Pourfar, Mark Setlock, Peter Smith, David Turner and Matthew Wilkas
Set Design: Takeshi Kata
Lighting Design: Paul Whitaker
Costume Design: Alejo Vietti
Sound Design: Jeffrey Yoshi Lee

Running time: 1 hours 35 minutes with no intermission
Rattlestick Theatre, 224 Waverly Place (West 11th/Perry)
Telephone: (212) 206-1515
WED - SAT @8, SUN @ 3 and 7; $37.50
Opening February 9, 2003, closing March 9, 2003--extended to March 16
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 2/6/03 performance

©Copyright 2003, Elyse Sommer
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