Theater Review: ‘Second Weekend in September’ at City Lights

Left: Christopher P. Kelly (Michael Parker) Right: Bradly Mena (David Alexander) Photographer: Lani Wong
Left: Christopher P. Kelly (Michael Parker) Right: Bradly Mena (David Alexander) Photographer: Lani Wong
In Review

Second Weekend in September

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars - 'Right on the Money'
City Lights Theater Company
Directed by Caroline Altman
Starring Christopher P. Kelly, Bradly Mena, Alexander Hero, Katie Schurtz
Written by Andrew Black
www.cltc.org
Review by
Left: Christopher P. Kelly (Michael Parker) Right: Bradly Mena (David Alexander) Photographer: Lani Wong
Left: Christopher P. Kelly (Michael Parker) Right: Bradly Mena (David Alexander) Photographer: Lani Wong

The affair in the world premiere in Second Weekend in September, which opened last week at City Lights Theater in San Jose, is smoldering, unique and, yes, even nudity-filled. Best of all, it debunks the stereotypes and cliches so often used to portray the gay lifestyle. While Michael (Christopher P. Kelly) prefers to stay in the closet while working his way up the corporate ladder and playing the conservative father and husband, David (Bradly Mena) is an unabashed, proud gay activist, with optimism to spare. Their once-yearly trysts in a homely cottage in the suburbs of Seattle reveal two people alternatively succumbing to the norm, and resisting the preordained circumstances of the druggie, new wave 1980s lifestyle.

Temptation is all around us; Michael will definitely quit smoking, when the price of a pack hits $1.50… $2.00… $2.50…

Not sure exactly where things are headed, or even why they insist on meeting up only once-a-year, the couple extends the affair. Throughout all the change in the world and with added pressure of family (and in the case of Michael, securing the down payment for that yuppie mountain vacation getaway), the two find solace in their time together. David likes bringing gifts, and presents Michael a Hummer figurine: a boy holding a flower, very much resembling himself. At intermission I told Loni I had the whole story figured out. I proceeded to tell her exactly what would happen next. It was all so obvious; the drug use, the gay activism, the symbolism and metaphors. Boy, was I wrong (not a first). Thankfully, instead of adopting a standard, prime-time version (“Trash TV!”) of how a forbidden gay relationship might unfold, we get a dose—of what I’m guessing—is more akin to unstripped reality, sans superficial.

I know Girlfriend at Berkeley Rep was great. But where that script was about summer love and light musical numbers, the Second Weekend in September is about something more intense, more meaningful. Music also plays a part though, with iconic showman Freddy Mercury providing inspiration. Plenty of 80’s and 90’s cultural references make for an enjoyable journey down memory lane: The Love Boat, Wham, Wayne’s World. And, was it really 18 years ago that Bill Clinton first entered the scene?!

Written by Bay Area playwright Andrew Black, the dialog ebbs and flows naturally. Before you realize it, you’re emotionally committed, eagerly anticipating words and actions that follow. In the last act, a visit from a mysterious character makes for a dramatic scene involving a locked box. It works unexpectedly well.

“Labels” – Some people sleep with men, some with women, some with both. It’s just what people do.

The performances by the two leads, Christopher P. Kelly and Bradly Mena (and for the most part this is a two-man play), are top notch. The passion is out-of-control one moment, remorsefully subdued the next. If there is a straight part here it would be the chotsky cottage where the yearly rendezvous takes place. Like the omnipresent music and TV shows it evolves in an attempt to modernize. Perhaps trying to become something that it too is not, faux paint and all. You had me at the potpourri.

This is one of the best productions I can recall seeing at City Lights. The subject matter is rich and commands our full emotional interest; it doesn’t reach too far or try to transform the intimate CLTC stage into something beyond its budget. It’s an inspired choice of material. Goodbyes now mean a whole lot more.

Second Weekend In September
City Lights Theater Company
4.5 out of 5 stars
Written by Andrew Black
Directed by Caroline Altman
Starring Christopher P. Kelly, Bradly Mena, Alexander Hero, Katie Schurtz
2 hours 15 minutes with intermission
Through June 20, 2010
www.cltc.org

Noteworthy
  • CLTC’s Non-Profit Partner for Second Weekend in September is San Jose Pride.
  • “Pardon our dust” – renovations are underway: new seats are coming from Camera Cinemas, and the restrooms are also on the mend (I wonder if they’ve fixed the door bottom that rubs the floor?) – I thought the new seats were already in – “these are much more comfortable!” I told Loni – only to realize after Vincent Egizi told me that they would arrive soon that I had been imagining things. Chalk it up to the power of positive thinking…
  • “Sponsorship… Go ahead and do it. It feels good” – you can underwrite individual elements of a City Lights production. Some examples: $2,000 Royalties to secure rights to a play; $3,000 for a set; $1,500 for costumes; $1,000 for lighting; $500 for sound; and $3,000 for actors compensation.
  • From the Playwright, Andrew Blackman: “In general, my work is based on the fact that I am a recovering alcoholic and  a man who loves other men. These truths have helped to shape my core beliefs that positive change is possible, the search for personal identity is not easy, and we live in an orderly universe which sustains and supports us, its inhabitants.”
  • Next up: RENT, July 22 – August 29, 2010.
  • Also, mark your calendar: First Annual Summer Fling, August 7, 2010.
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