In the Closet, a dramedy by Siegmund Fuchs, introduces us to four gay men of varying ages who have entered into a shared limbo, a limbo which takes the form of a metaphorical closet. In this closet there’s enough space for four people to walk around, a table and chairs, two doors, food, and coffee that comes straight from a dresser drawer without requiring a coffee maker. In this safe haven these men find the soothing memories of a grandmother’s back scratches and warm-baked kolaches, the smell of lilac, and the company of each other.
The men: Man #1 (Paul Page), a gay man in his 60’s, Man #2 (mid-40’s, James O’Hagan-Murphy), Man #3 (late 20’s, Ed Rosini) and James (aka Man #4, 18 years old, Ryan Avalos). The impression is given that each man has (or will) take respite in this “closet” at different times in their lives, but it is during the course of this play that their presence in it overlaps the most.
There are moments of both overacting and underacting throughout the production, possibly due to instances where the script asks the actors to cover too much emotional ground in not enough space. Avalos and Rosini provide the most consistently organic performances, although all four actors can be credited for providing generally sincere depictions, even some emotionally moving moments, especially when one-on-one.
The premise of this play has these four men appearing at times in their lives when they are “in the closet”, a phrase which means to “hide their sexual orientation or behavior.” It’s a weak construct, because by the play’s end, it is evident that these men aren’t so much hiding from their homosexuality as they are suffering from life traumas, some relating to being gay and some not, and their experiences are much more powerful and life-changing than that which results from “closeted behavior”. The most important question is whether they can bring themselves to re-enter their own worlds and face life’s difficulties.
Ultimately, the “closet” metaphor is weak and the play would be better without it, but that would require total reassembly. Nevertheless, the messages of this play are relevant, important and meaningful. If you liked Albee’s “Three Tall Women”, and you’re up for a gay fantasy along the same lines told by four well-intentioned actors, then come see In The Closet.
A note about the title: per the program and script, the work is entitled In the Closet, but some publicity presents the title as In the Closet – Exploring Ageism in The Gay Community. Besides making the play sound like a dry documentary, the work is about much more than “ageism”, so this subtitle should be dropped.
In the Closet (through June 16, 2019), Theatre Row’s Studio Theatre, (410 West 42nd Street), in Manhattan. For tickets visit Telecharge, call 212-239-6200 or buy in person at the Theatre Row Box Office.