Steve and Idi
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
May 4, 2008
After seeing the first act of David Grimm's new play Steve & Idi, I did something I haven't done in a very long time: I left at intermission. What caused such a strong response? A whole lot of gratuitous offensiveness; so much that I just didn't care to sit through any more of the same.
The premise of Grimm's comedy is that Steve, a thirtysomething gay playwright whose lover has just dumped him for another man and who is suffering from severe writer's block, is visited by the ghost of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. This quirky concept made me interested to see this play, and it's possible that stuff happens in Act Two that makes it pay off and/or at least make sense.
But what I saw in Act One was most unpromising. First of all, the play takes a very long time to get started: the first several scenes are all about establishing what a mess Steve's life is, ad nauseam, as we see him drinking and watching TV alone on New Year's Eve, engaging in bitchy banter with two members of a playwriting group, getting high with one of said members, having a bitchy conversation with his (now) ex-lover, and fending off the advances of a ditzy but hunky young man with whom he has just had meaningless sex (under an assumed name). Eventually the ghost of Idi does arrive, but nothing that's happened before sets up why this particular ghost is haunting this particular broken spirit.
What is set up is a barrage of really unfunny jokes that reinforce gay stereotypes in a very offensive way. We don't need to hear the word "faggot" on stage in 2008, not at all; certainly not over and over again in a play by a gay author, uttered by his (apparently self-loathing) gay protagonist. Once Amin arrives on the scene, anti-Semitic cracks get added to the mix as well.
I know: sticks and stones are what break bones; name-calling isn't supposed to hurt me. But name-calling—and that's precisely what Grimm is indulging in here—does have power. It certainly had the power to eject me from the theatre, wearied by what felt like an assault. I just didn't have the will to endure more of these gratuitous insults in Act Two.