I saw *Afterglow* off Broadway on 2/26/18. It's built up a little fame/notoriety over the last year for being "the gay play" with full frontal nudity. If you think this is something that would make me run to see it, you're wrong! I put full nudity in the same category as water onstage - - a cheap, cynical gimmick for grabbing an audience's attention. Not inherently dramatic. But a friend (whose opinion will inspire skepticism in the future) told me it was very strong as a PLAY, so I bought a ticket. I had the same feeling as I had for *Hamilton* a few years ago: it might not be something that I like, but it seemed like something I should see. *Hamilton* was genius!
The show was at The Loft at The Davenport Theater. It's always nice to go to a theater you haven't been to right? This one was on 45th Street between 8th and 9th (very close to the subway home, which I like) and up three flights of stairs. I'm sure there are small theaters like this all over town.
The show started at 7:30 and the audience was held in the lobby until 7:20. I heard Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up" in the theater, which both tickled me and frightened me. Is this what I had signed up for?
We were let into the theater, and Rick Astley was replaced by anonymous droopy electronic music. Which I guess was a relief? It's a small theater, I would guess about 80 seats. The audience appeared to be 40% gay men between 40 and 50, 40% gay men over 50, and 20% other. I was pleased to have one of those others sitting next to me, an Asian woman under 30.
The play was written and directed by S. Asher Gelman, it's his first play. It's about a married gay couple who have an open relationship. The play opened with the two of them in bed with a third guy, they've just had a tryst with him. Of course the third guy complicates things.
I'll start with the good news. The characters are sharply drawn and the dramatic arc is well-shaped. The scene changes were the highlight of the show (how's that for damnation with faint praise).
Bad news: the performances were generally good, but the line readings felt a little pat. The three actors all had nice bodies, but I got a little tired of looking at those dingle dangles after a while. Only one of them was really nice to look at. I was surprised that watching them getting dressed was sexier than the total nudity. What does that say about me? And wouldn't you know that there's plenty of water onstage, sure to annoy me - - the central playing area was transformed into a shower three or four times. Yawn.
I would have loved this if it had been an indie movie 25 years ago. I would have watched the videotape over and over and upgraded to DVD (hopefully with special features). I'd have moved on to other movies maybe five years later - - I'd watch it again today and feel nostalgic but also feel like it was kinda crappy. And I'd forgive myself.