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THEATER REVIEW The Things I Could Never Tell Steven
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2021-08-28

This article shared 1311 times since Sat Aug 28, 2021
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The Things I Could Never Tell Steven. Playwright: Jye Bryant

At: PrideArts Broadway. 4139 N. Broadway. Tickets: $30; PrideArts.org . Runs through: Sept. 19

Steven is missing, to begin with—not dead, like Marley; or imprisoned, like Edmond Dante—but merely in retreat from his intimate acquaintances. Since these include his parents (male and female), spouse (female) and paramour (male), Steven's absence is the focus of much concern—not to mention disruption of carefully-planned social schedules and lately, furtive misgivings regarding the reasons for his flight.

We quickly guess the probable motive for his evading the attentions of a wine-swilling mom who addresses him as "Stevie-Pie" and other embarrassing pet names, vilifies his bride-to-be for the crime of "stealing my boy" and stoutly denies the suspicions raised by his hidden collection of gay sex-toys. We are likewise unsurprised when his booty-call bestie eventually gets ghosted, fetishwear and all.

Steven's fresh-out-of-college wife, on the other hand, had her doubts on the very eve of their wedding, but vowed to singlehandedly create a happy marriage for them both, much as Steven's Dad, while proud of his offspring's accomplishments, continues to be haunted by regrets over failing to do enough for the lad that everybody strived so hard to "protect."

How the elusive Steven, himself, feels about his role as the center of his guardians' universe, we never learn. That's because our sole glimpses of the fugitive are likewise indistinct—a voice on an answering machine or door-intercom, a name on a card attached to a bouquet or graduation gift, a departing figure on a security-cam video. Gradually, the doting confidantes left abandoned—after pitching a hissy-fit or two—come to realize that the loss they feel is not his to remedy, and that the search for fulfillment lies within themselves alone.

Australian composer Jye Bryant recounts these events in an intermissionless 75-minute sequence of songs—narrative structure permitting the four pilgrims to soliloquize while remaining physically isolated from one another. Under the guidance of recently appointed company Artistic Director Jay Espano and Musical Director Robert Ollis (both doing double-duty as, respectively, production director and orchestra for this North American premiere), a quartet of youthful vocalists welcome audiences back to storefront viewing with performances of unforced passion and interpretive virtuosity. (Elissa Newcorn and Nate Hall, in particular, render the growth of "Wife" and "Ex" from shallow stereotypes to independent adults plausible, subtle and sympathetic at all times.)

The interior of the PrideArts Broadway auditorium in Uptown's Old Speakeasy has been reconfigured to allow cleaner sight-lines for costume designer Isaac Pineda's wardrobe and scenic designer Foiles' decor (although Trey Brazeal's lighting still sometimes falls prey to misplaced shadows). Its cozy ambience requires playgoers to observe mask and vaccination-card mandates, however. (These are strictly enforced, by the way—no whining or begging. Come prepared.)


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