For a couple of hyperliterate motormouths, the gay Brooklynites at the center of Jordan Seavey’s Homos, or Everyone in America leave an awful lot unsaid. One of them is a fiction writer (Michael Urie), the other a grad student in media studies (Robin de Jesús); neither is given a first name. Over the course of five years, beginning in 2006, they meet on Friendster, fall for each other, debate politics and poppers, move in together, break up over an infidelity, and come to a sadder but wiser platonic rapprochement after the academic survives a beating by homophobes.
The narrative jumps around in time, as if on shuffle or told through an addled memory. Flashes of a flirty first date, lacerating verbal brawls, tender pillow talk, and a tense E.R. visit are all jumbled together. Mike Donahue’s staging for Labyrinth Theater Company has a similar sketched-in aspect; there are no props or costume changes, and only Scott Zielinski’s fluid lighting design denotes scene breaks.
The overlapping, elliptical dialogue heightens this fragmented quality, often circling around an issue without actually mentioning it. Arguments about threesomes and marriage equality, for instance, are really about commitment and trust. Both characters tend to omit key nouns from the ends of sentences: “Just say no to —,” “Jesus Christ died for our —,” “I am not a self-hating —.” After a while, the device starts to feel like a verbal tic that serves no real —.
As suggested by the broad title, the characters are vehicles for commentary on a range of LGBT issues, from DOMA to hate crimes. Generally, the writer stands for self-expression and sexual freedom, while the grad student is more community-minded and domestic. Seavey, a co–artistic director of the new-works-focused CollaborationTown, wisely gives them room to change their minds and contradict themselves over time, as humans will do.
Still, neither emerges as distinct, largely because, for all their disagreements, they sound so much alike. Even the guy who eventually comes between them (Aaron Costa Ganis) uses the same quippy rhythms and incomplete sentences. Despite Urie’s fidgety charisma and the emotional openness de Jesús offers, there’s something arch and artificial about Seavey’s refusal to portray the more quiet, everyday moments that characterize a long-term romance. As anyone who’s been in one can attest, lasting relationships aren’t built just on witty banter.
Homos, or Everyone in America
Directed by Mike Donahue
Bank Street Theater
155 Bank Street
Through November 27