Close Call Theatre

at Puszh Studios

Albert Innaurato’s Gemini is a play that really betrays its period, the early 1970s. Gay liberation was rather innocent in those days: no AIDS, no public disclosures of sex partners, no visible S-M culture, no lesbian separatism, no gay elected officials, no Queer Nation or ACT UP. Sergeant Leonard Matlovich hadn’t been featured on the cover of Time magazine yet with a big headline reading “I Am a Homosexual.” The women who eventually founded the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival were still in high school.

In other words, back then Gay liberation was warm and fuzzy. You could snuggle up to it. It was cute. And it was really simple. In Innaurato’s time-trapped script, the agonized hero doesn’t have to grapple with anything other than his own sexual discovery. And that revelation comes with some humor, brings some surprising support (even if he doesn’t acknowledge it), and occasions virtually no rejection. Gemini is a sweet coming-of-age story–except that the hero’s queer.

Francis Geminiani, a working-class kid on a Harvard scholarship, is home for the summer with his father, a loudmouthed but well-intentioned Italian named Fran; Francis’s mother (who’s called a “white woman”) left long ago. Fran is a tough/tender macho guy: at one time he had a fling going with his wild Irish neighbor Bunny, but now he’s in a more settled relationship with the widow Lucille, who lives around the corner.

Francis is miserable enough with his father, the noise from a nearby construction site, and his apparent incompatibility with everyone around him when, on the eve of his 21st birthday, two Harvard buddies show up unannounced. It seems that Judith Hastings (actually a Harvard/Radcliffe buddy) was sharing some horizontal time during the school year with Francis. Although he’s a little nerdier than her usual type, Judith’s hot for him still. Randy, her brother, is along for the ride. He and Francis spent some time talking during the last semester and consider each other friends. Or so Judith thinks.

For Francis, having the Hastingses in his home represents the collision of two worlds. They are rich, he’s not. They are beautiful, he’s not. And they appear to be heterosexual. All he wants to do is get them out of his house as soon as possible. But his problem is complicated when his father and friends, upon laying eyes on Judith, insist that the Hastingses stay, much to Francis’s consternation.

The shenanigans in Gemini are the stuff of sitcoms. The sexual confusion is relatively contrived. As in television shows, the resolution is last-minute, absurdly epiphanic, and utterly unbelievable. Particularly incredible is the affectionate response of all Francis’s family and neighborhood friends to his predicament–they seem to have known all along that he’s gay. Only the Hastings kids are upset, and they seem to be responding more out of ego than prejudice. There’s virtually no conflict here. In fact, you begin to wonder what the hell’s the matter with Francis that he feels so alienated from this family.

This is very early, very accommodating gay theater, as the simplicity of its coming-out story shows. The Close Call production is competent, if a little slow at times. Joann D’Angelo, who plays Lucille, is marvelous. Michael Kingston as Fran and Chris Tickner as Francis are also solid. But there are real lapses with the other characters. Carolyn McCusker overacts as Bunny. Ray Brazaski, playing Bunny’s abused genius son, is simply annoying. And Tonya Mayhew and Piotr Plachta as the Hastingses are just awful. Both are nearly expressionless. Mayhew’s timing was off all night, and her interactions with Tickner were embarrassing: he acted her off the stage at every turn.