LATITUDE, Phoenix Theater of Indianapolis and Bailiwick Repertory. By the end of Tony McDonald’s New Age love epic, part of Bailiwick’s “Pride Series ’98,” two time-traveling gay lovers have finally recognized the influence of their previous lives on the present. Heading “back to the future,” they fall in love all over again. But in Bryan Fonseca’s throbbing staging the hokey finale is far less persuasive than the lovers’ three earlier encounters. In ancient Greece (which here includes anachronistic references to “Brutus” and a “forum”) the younger lover, an artist, prefers glory and war to love and poetry. In jazz age England he’s betrayed by his older lover, a closeted husband dependent on his rich wife. During the Spanish Inquisition he chooses exile with his beloved, a liberal-minded Paris professor, over religion and a bigoted sister. And in modern-day America the lovers discover that the “latitudes” of love have linked them across the centuries.

McDonald has concocted juicy conflicts, which the three actors effectively exploit. Deborah Sargent–who plays both sympathetic matchmakers and hostile homophobes–uses her magisterial presence to good effect, and as the pretty-boy artiste, Gary Alexander remains likably American throughout. Scott Stoney, if never as irresistible as his character is described, nevertheless gives his four incarnations the communal solidarity of embattled lovers.

McDonald–who’s lifted the time-traveling plot from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and Charles Busch’s Vampire Lesbians of Sodom–lacks the wit or flair to make the story soar. Fortunately, the actors refuse to sink even when the script is about to go down.

–Lawrence Bommer