A review of Theatre22’s excellent staging of Alexi Kaye Campbell’s “The Pride,” on stage through Nov. 19.
Two stories 50 years apart run on parallel tracks in Alexi Kaye Campbell’s “The Pride,” a riveting portrait of two gay relationships.
Both tales take place in London and feature characters with the same names, played by the same actors, but there isn’t an explicit connection between the two. Instead, thematic echoes ping back and forth — some readily apparent, others less so — and Kaye Campbell elegantly fills in details that portray vast differences and some quiet similarities between the two periods.
In Theatre22’s staging, directed with exacting emotional control by producing artistic director Corey McDaniel, every unspoken desire and past relational trauma hums just below the surface of each interaction.
by Alexi Kaye Campbell. Through Nov. 19, at 12th Avenue Arts, 1620 12th Ave., Seattle; $18-$25 (206-257-2203 or theatre22.org).
Those tensions — and their eventual upheavals — are maintained by an exceptional cast of four, in performances that are defined as much by their silences as they are their dialogue. A furtive look, a stunned speechlessness, an admission that sticks in the throat before it can get out — they all communicate volumes here.
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In 1958 London, children’s book illustrator Sylvia (Angela DiMarco) introduces her husband, Philip (Andre Nelson), to her collaborator, author Oliver (Trevor Young Marston). The trio drinks scotch while Oliver regales them with tales of his many world travels and Philip grumbles about his less-than-fulfilling job as an estate agent. Oliver is warm and gregarious; Philip is peevish and aloof. But when Sylvia leaves the room, the dynamic changes.
The 2008 London version of Oliver is distraught after being dumped — this time, for good — by Philip, who can no longer abide Oliver’s frequent sexual dalliances with strangers. Oliver begins to lean heavily on their mutual friend, Sylvia, for emotional support, but she’s attempting to take the next step in a relationship of her own, another strain that causes Oliver to enter an intense period of self-reflection.
The contemporary scenes are considerably lighter than their counterparts, where a thick, suffocating fog of societal disapproval blankets a relationship that’s as doomed by internalized hatred as it is by backwards social mores. That these two eras blend together so seamlessly in alternating scenes is a testament to the quality of the writing and Theatre22’s production.
Any one of the performances would be reason enough to see “The Pride.” Taken together, this is ensemble work that rivals the best of anything on Seattle stages.
Doug Fahl ranges from hilariously blunt to horrifically curt in three different supporting roles. DiMarco far outclasses “betrayed wife” clichés to portray a woman whose empathy and self-preservation instincts are at war inside herself. Nelson plumbs the depths of self-loathing and latches on to deeply disquieting effect.
Among them all, it’s Marston, whose raw-nerve vulnerability is accompanied by a bruised-but-not-broken optimism, that leaves the greatest impact. “The Pride” is a harrowing show that’s unafraid to wade into humans’ capability for hatred, but it also strives to look ahead with hopefulness for the future.