Joshua Conkel's 'I Wanna Destroy You'
By Jerry Portwood
Photography by Matthew Murphy
Don't think marriage equality and seemingly unfettered freedoms have caused an entirely new set of anxieties for a generation of young gay men? After a dose of Joshua Conkel's hilarious new play, I Wanna Destroy You, you may reconsider. Set on the eve of New York City legalizing same-sex marriage in June 2011, the fastpaced, witty comedy offers an endearing portrait of a gay male couple whose relationship is on the rocks.
More than anything, the play captures the tortured feelings when New York City seems to want to crush all your hopes and dreams—and only rewards the "cunts," as one characater succinctly explains, "Otherwise the world just walks all over you."
Beau (Anthony Johnston) is turning 30, living in a shitty Bushwick apartment, and is sick of being the gay sidekick and personal assistant to Cecile (the incredibly funny Geneva Carr)—and forever poor. Beau's boyfriend Mick (Kieran Mulcare), who was attacked on the street and left with a facial scar, no longer connects with the city or people, preferring to watch the rats and longing to return home to Kentucky. When frenemy Daphne (Kathy Searle) reappears with her own sassy gay assistant Jim (a charming Preston Martin), then all hell breaks loose. Packed with Zeitgeist-y zingers, the extremely talented Conkel offers a disturbing peek into what it actually means to be young, gay, and barely scraping by in New York City. Just check out these choice lines that use the 'f' word—meaning, faggot—quite liberally:
- "You’re gonna go to the Hamptons with Cecile’s skeleton friends next month and mince around for them as they shove shrimp scampi down their gaping maws, all the while pretending you’re something other than what you are...Poor white trash. A faggot minstrel show to amuse them."
- "You’re faginizers...You exploit gay men to assuage your loneliness."
- "That’s because none of those sissy fags will break stuff or burn things. If they really wanted their civil rights in California they would’ve torched Los Angeles."
Director Dan Horrigan keeps the show's pace wickedly fast, which helps the punchy patter stay upbeat, when it could easily slip into bitterness, interpreted as a stern warning to anyone thinking they might have a chance of making it as a young creative person in the city. The final scenes involving the central couple seem like a romantic riff on Leopold and Loeb (or at least Bonnie & Clyde), but it leaves us with a warm, happy feeling—even if we know these boys will never truly be out of trouble.
Through June 1 at The Beckett Theater at Theater Row, New York City. Visit At Hand Theatre's website for ticket information.