In “Taken In,” Richmond Triangle Players’ first offering of their new season, author John W. Lowell presents us with a riveting picture of a lonely middle aged gay man with many failed relationships, who befriends a young, sexy street hustler and takes him in.
Marc, the storyteller of the play, talks directly to the audience at times during the drama. In his early 40s — which of course is 109 in “gay years” — Marc tries to hold on to his youth by dressing a little too preppie, working out at the gym, but not that often, and holding down a boring job as a music copyist which he has convinced himself that he enjoys. Being a “lightweight,” Marc leaves a party one night where he’s had a little too much to drink and stumbles across Danny, a street hustler, who’s on the job.
Danny recognizes Marc’s type immediately and starts flirting with him, posing and grabbing his crotch. “Hey, why don’t you go home to your boyfriend!” Danny says, assuming the older man has a boyfriend. Marc soon realizes his new acquaintance is working, so when a car passes them by he says, “No sale?” To which Danny replies, “He wasn’t looking for pro meat. He’s headin’ for the action behind the garage. I know a danger fairy when I see one. You could check it out for yourself but that scene’s probably way, way raw for a guy like you.” Marc says, “A guy like me?” Danny replies, “Hey, don’t take it personal. Some belong here, some don’t.” Marc says, “And you place me in the latter category?” Danny doesn’t miss a beat and says, “No, God did … I just pointed it out.”
Playwright John W. Lowell’s dialogue is honest and real, the glue that holds this production together and the edge that makes it realistic.
Eventually, Danny goes home with Marc just to have a hot bath and some Chinese food, “nothing spicy.”… Marc orders the food, “nothing spicy” but admits to the audience that he loves spicy food. Danny pretty much moves in with Marc but doesn’t understand why they’re not having sex. He’s not used to guys being nice to him without some sort of sexual reward. Marc even gets Danny a job taking tickets at a movie theater for minimum wage, a fraction of what he could make turning tricks on the street. When Danny doesn’t come home for a couple of nights Marc starts to obsess about him.
Jay McCullough, obviously a seasoned actor, gives a great performance as Marc, a gay, lonely, people-pleaser, just wanting to mother, touch, or be held by someone beautiful. The surprise of the evening is Alan Condrey, as Danny, the streetwise hustler, whose character is so well-defined and strong that he rips your heart out when he says, “You can bring your boyfriend home to meet your parents? I can’t even bring me home to meet my parents!”
The real star of the evening is playwright John W. Lowell’s poignant drama that explores relationships and codependency. His dialogue between the actors is so believable and realistic that you leave the theater wondering which character really has a fear of intimacy. Gay or straight, the theme of dysfunctional relationships is universal.
Director Michael Gooding skillfully moves the actors around the stage and has inspired some great chemistry between them. The minimal set, designed by Ryan Imirie, is a stage draped in all-white chiffon that looks as if a bride exploded. But in an odd way, it works.
I applaud The Richmond Triangle Players for putting on a play that is not only original but gives Richmond audiences an opportunity to grow.