Naked Boys Angsting
By Noah Michelson
Photo: Paula Court
You are so over peppy, poppy, perky gay plays like Naked Boys Singing or Altar Boyz (come on, it's pretty gay), right? Then you should catch Slipping, which opened last night at Greenwich Village's Rattlestick Theater.
Yeah, the boys get naked in this play, but they don't sing. Instead, the lead boy, Eli (moodily played by pretty Seth Numrich), is a troubled, mop-haired, Joy Division-listening, ostracized indie fag who's just moved to suburban Iowa, still smarting from his obsessive, abusive relationship back in San Francisco with Chris, a popular, "straight" bruiser who takes his self-loathing out on Eli. Then Eli hooks up in Iowa with Jake, an earnest baseball jock who's open to teenboy love even while he keeps their relationship closeted at school. (They meet and bond
in a crafts class, sculpting clay, by the way.) Plus, Eli's got to deal with the recent violent death of his dad, with whom he was close, and the fumbling efforts of his sleep-around mom, a book-burrowing college professor, to be close to him despite a lifetime of distancing herself.
Eli is always holding his head in his hands in a state of mental torture, and eventually starts cutting himself.
If it sounds like a gay My So-Called Life laced with Anne Hathaway's raw punk pain in Rachel Getting Married, or Judy Blume's Then Again, Maybe I Won't crossed with a Jocks porn vid...well, it kind of is! (Plus, it's got a great, angsty soundtrack, chock-full of Morrissey and Courtney Love.) And guess what? The playwright, Daniel Talbott, is not only moodily sexy-looking himself, but straight. You could argue that maybe that's where this particular gay play gets its darkly aggressive energy. But Slipping is at its best when its adolescent male aggression slips into desire, vulnerability and tenderness -- and it often does.
Slipping runs through August 15, 2009 at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 224 Waverly Place, NY, NY. For tickets and more info, head here.
-- TIM MURPHY
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