Over And Over
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 24, 2010
Over and Over, a new play written and directed by Tim Aumiller, tells the story of two young men who were once roommates—and significantly more—back when they were in college eight years ago. Their lives since then have sent them off in different directions: Jimmie is a very successful, if artistically unfulfilled, actor on a daytime soap opera, in a less-than-ideal relationship with a live-in boyfriend. Mitchell, who once also wanted to become an actor, has a successful business (I think as an event or party planner; this was not completely clear to me); he lives with a woman and seems to be very conflicted about the homosexual desire he had/has for Jimmie.
In the play, we observe them as they meet in a downtown Manhattan theatre (they actually identify it as the Cherry Lane, the one we're in) that, apparently, Jimmie has rented for this afternoon assignation. We learn that Jimmie and Mitchell have been meeting intermittently over the years in semi-public places such as this for sexual encounters; the last one was three months before. It's clear from the start that this meeting is going to be more fraught than previous ones must have been. When Mitchell arrives in the empty theatre, Jimmie taunts him by turning out all of the lights (Mitchell apparently has a strong fear of the dark). In the dark, Jimmie tries to tantalize Mitchell by telling him that he's taken off his clothes and is sexually excited—and even though it's clear that this line of conversation isn't having the desired effect, Jimmie eventually emerges, clad only in designer briefs, clearly intending to seduce his old friend.
The lights go on, but the communication between the two remains discordant. Many old memories and some secrets are revealed. The gist is that both men are unhappy without each other, but Mitchell's deeply internalized homosexual panic is keeping him from finding happiness, with Jimmie or anyone else.
Over and Over confused me for several reasons. Chiefly, I didn't understand what Mitchell's problem is: in New York City in 2010, how much of a stigma is it to be openly gay—or at least to acknowledge that fact to yourself, which Mitchell seems unable to do? Though we're told late in the play that Mitchell is bipolar, I didn't buy that as the source of whatever is bugging him.
I was also confused by Jimmie's pursuit of Mitchell in the face of his friend's trouble. His overt sexual tease—he spends most of the hour we watch them only in his underwear—made me wonder if this was all some kind of role play/fantasy thing (I rejected that idea); and when Jimmie agreed to finally put on his pants in exchange for Mitchell taking off his shirt, the situation started to feel uncomfortably like a porn script without any actual porn in it.
Mostly, I didn't understand why I was supposed to care much about either of these men, who, despite their unhappy love/sex lives, are rich, successful, and generally healthy.
Aumiller's staging maintains suspense throughout, and the two actors give fine enough performances (Tanner Cohen plays the playfully bitchy Jimmie opposite Andy Ridings's high-strung Mitchell). But the situation and the characters never really felt compelling to me, and as I left the theatre following a conclusion that was evident pretty much from the first moments of the piece, I didn't know what I was supposed to have taken away with me.