Break out the laudanum: It’s time for some totally 1880’s retro, courtesy of period melodrama Henry May Long. From director Randy Sharp of the Village theater outfit Axis Company, which has staged productions about the vexing Hawthorne-Melville pen-palhood and World War I shellshock victims, comes a wallow in unrequited love within hat-tipping distance of Age of Innocence New York. Dashing, dissipating scion Henry May (Christian Camargo, who last gussied up as John Wilkes Booth in National Treasure II) vies for Best Victorian Pallor with his completely smitten, consumptive-looking chum Henry Long (Axis regular Brian Barnhart). Each gentleman likes to go slumming “of an evening” (where “downtown” means the waterfront). The attempt to imagine same-sex attraction as cryptically played out in an earlier era is hobbled by a clumsy, static script and actors drilled with the imperative to broadcast longing and societal strictures but unable to imagine how aside from a few belabored mannerisms. The production makes the most of shoestring means, however, with many a candlelit colloquy, though the apparent background reading in Lowlife and New York by Gas-Light is more alluded to than illustrated. I’d call it a Smiths one-off for the whaling age, if it weren’t so arid and humorless.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 19, 2008