Over the course of three weekends one summer in the early 1990s, we meet eight gay men at various points in their careers and lives.
As far as action, not much “exciting” happens in this play. Lovers cheat and quarrel, relationships crumble while others grow, and through it all, the preciousness of life and the beauty of friendship is highlighted time and again. In other words: Love! Valour! Compassion! (LVC, as it is affectionately known to some) is a poignant examination of human relationships, growth, and change and doesn’t need an action-packed adventure or non-stop laughs to keep us hooked.
The focus, therefore, isn’t on narrative so much as character development. And what characters there are! This show features a strong ensemble cast. Though initially irritating in his stereotype-laden portrayal of a big, loud, flamboyant gay man, Josh Kemp’s Buzz Hauser quickly found his way to my heart thanks to his touching mix of vulnerability and optimism as he faced dying of AIDS, falling in love, and friends who are woefully under appreciative of show-tunes.
Patrick Teed, as Bobby, a gentle, sweet, blind boy in a loving relationship, is stunning to watch as he navigates a world he cannot see but is desperate to remain a part of. My favourite character, however, was probably James Jekyll (played by Lawrence Evenchick) who appears in the second act as a good-hearted Brit with an easy sense of humour, quick smile, and only precious little time left on Earth. Evenchick brought warmth, joy, and sensitivity to what was doubtlessly a difficult role.
The rest of the cast was also amazing. Rounding out our character list are the established, loving couple of Arthur and Perry, who navigate their relationship with tenderness and more than a little patience. There’s cynical and sour dance accompanist John Jekyll from Britain and his young Puerto Rican boyfriend Ramon, new to the group of friends. And of course we have our host: Gregory, the stammering and affectionate man at the center of it all, played brilliantly by Shaun Toohey.
I enjoyed this play and found it to be moving, heart-warming, and sincere although the three hour run time grated on my nerves. This is a fine piece of art but it deals with heavy issues and a lot of dense text so it begins to feel long, particularly because each scene is so subtle and yet still important. Also know that there is full and frequent nudity.
But that’s just my opinion and I’d like to know what you think. Was there a character you identified with? Is this mostly a GLBTQ show or one that is accessible to everyone? Did you love the Swan Lake dance as much as I did? Join the discussion in the comments below.