nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 16, 2009
William LoCasto's provocative new play NY/XY promises "two young men, an anonymous voice, and a lot of questions about sex in New York City"—and indeed, when we enter StageLeft Studio, the two young men are already on stage, clad only in their underwear, apparently asleep. And when the lights go down, an unseen male voice starts asking these men—whose names are Michael and Danny—about their sex lives. Lots of very frank talk about gay sex ensues.
But don't let the obvious trappings fool you. NY/XY may look like a typical "gay boys in their underwear play" on the surface, and in some places it delivers some of the soft-porn-like sexiness of that fading genre. However, as the play progresses, it becomes clear that LoCasto has something more serious on his mind, something actually quite timely in the wake of Proposition 8.
Danny, who occupies the right half of the stage (from the audience's perspective) is a party boy. He's promiscuous and unabashed about it; he's not interested in relationships, just in having a great time. He is candid and fluent about his favorite sex acts. And he has real trouble relating to Michael, who is just a few feet away from him on stage but might as well be in a different universe given how little they seem to have in common. For Michael believes that sex should have something to do with love: that behaving responsibly and caring for yourself and others matters more than pleasing yourself and pleasing others with tongue, hands, or other body parts.
LoCasto does a great job making these two young men into more than the archetypes that I've described. As portrayed by Brandon Bernard (Michael) and Leicester Landon (Danny), both emerge as three-dimensional, convincing human beings. Their perspectives on sex, love, self-image, and other subjects come into focus, and even though everyone in the audience is probably going to feel more "like" one or the other, the values of each are understandable and easy to empathize with.
I don't want to give away the play's conclusion, which is extremely strong. But LoCasto takes us to a surprisingly pertinent place, as we contemplate the kind of balance that a melding of Michael and Danny's attitudes can yield—and we remember that being gay isn't just about having sex or winning the right to legally wed. It's a useful reminder in this current politicized time.
The modus operandi of NY/XY is never clearly explained: the offstage voice (supplied live by Zach Harvey) prompts Michael and Danny to talk about this and that, eventually getting the two to interact. But it's not clear where this is all taking place, or—more important—why Michael and Danny have agreed to take part in whatever is occurring here. By the time the play ended, I had formed a theory about what was actually happening, but I'm not sure that I wouldn't have been more satisfied with a more clearly delineated framing device for what goes down here.
But that said, the work is otherwise compelling and entertaining. Alexander Beck's staging is necessarily simple and direct, and it works well. The actors deliver worthy performances—and I should add that they do not just function as eye candy, for they put on their clothes as soon as the show proper begins. So much for expectations.