Entertainment » Theatre

Steve

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Mar 5, 2018
Alex Jacobs, Mikey DiLoreto,and Victor Shopov in Zeitgeist Stage Company's production of 'Steve,' running through March 2
Alex Jacobs, Mikey DiLoreto,and Victor Shopov in Zeitgeist Stage Company's production of 'Steve,' running through March 2  (Source:Photo by David J. Miller)

"Steve," by Mark Gerrard, trades in some pretty worn tropes -- infidelity suspected, actually, and engaged in out of revenge; the offstage, but frequently referred-to, pains of parenting; the cute younger guy who comes out of nowhere and, with a wink and a flirtatious word, sets a middle-aged man spinning -- but its cast give the material a shine. A shine that could use some pepper, mind you -- but a shine all the same.

One of the play's first, and most irritating, tics is that both of its main characters are named Steve, o some variation thereof. Stephen (Alex Jacobs) is a successful lawyer; his partner, Steven (Victor Shopov), is a stay-at-home dad responsible for the care and feeding of their eight-year-old son. Steve and Stephen are best friends with another couple, Matt (Mikey DiLoreto) and Brian (Mike Nilsson), an both couples have a longtime friend in Carrie (Jenny Reagan), a lesbian whose partner the guys despise as "a cunt." Carrie takes their feelings in stride, because she has bigger fish to fry: Her own impending death. (Though it's never specified, the implication is that she's got terminal cancer.)

Things kick off at a restaurant on the occasion of Steven's birthday. After a trying day with the tyke, Steven is in need of a stiff one... a drink, that is, but once he catches the eye of twenty-something Argentinian waiter Esteban (Adam Boisselle), his list of wants grows a notch. And why shouldn't it? Steven has just seen a scroll of incriminating text messages appear on Stephen's iPhone -- a parade of graphic and teasing notations that have launched him into a state of absolutely livid rage.


Mikey DiLoreto, Alex Jacobs, Jenny Reagan, Victor Shopov, Adam Boisselle, and Mike Nilsson in Zeitgeist Stage Company's production of 'Steve'  (Source:David J. Miller)

What follows is a plunging, swerving rollercoaster of emotional chaos that finds Steven and Stephen on the verge of breaking up, Esteban popping up everywhere Steven turns, Jenny seeking solace and companionship from her extremely self-absorbed gay male friends, and Matt and Brian trying out an unusual domestic situation with the play's other hot twenty-something -- the never seen, but endlessly discussed trainer at their gym named... wait for it!... Steve.

You can't help but want this play to heat up and ascend to the farcical heights of something along the lines of "La cage aux follies," but that just never happens. There are moments when it feels like that's the goal, however, such as a ludicrously extended and ever-more-complicated routine in which Stephen juggles multiple text message threads (some of them saucier than others) while on the phone to both his mother and Steven's; but though the scene throws off sparks, it never quite ignites.

Later on there's a touching goodbye that all but cries out to hit harder and dig deeper, but its force is somehow blunted. Perhaps it all goes back to an epic moment, right at the beginning, in which one of the many Steves has a spectacular meltdown to the horror of everybody in the room... except, not really. It's as though the force of that early moment, and the way it's treated as a fake-out, has made the cast wary of any further all-out campaigns on our emotions.

The script's conventions have a slightly formulaic tinge about them, and they verge on being stale; the presence of so many iPhones, with their endless capacities for mischievous forms takes the show from dated to updated, but that's not always enough. Thank goodness, then, for the cast. One and all, the actors deliver on charm, and the way they frolic through the play's more tautly-written scenes -- two-handers, the sort of tete-a-tetes that make for great screwball comedy -- lends this production gloss and briskness. Particularly memorable are Shopov's scenes with Reagan (she eggs him on as he contemplates putting the moves on Esteban) and DiLoreto (the two capture the friction and friendship that's long existed between their respective characters). Elsewhere, Nilsson knows how to smolder, and he does, particularly when he's pecking out a string of come-hither missives on his phone. Jacobs, for his part, masters the role of the harried, slightly ineffectual Stephen.

The show suffers a bit from what might be an ironic and deliberately generic flavor, but the cast, under David J. Miller's direction, make "Steve" a tasty confection.


"Steve" continues thorough March 24 at the Boston Center for the Arts. For tickets and more information please to to http://zeitgeiststage.com



Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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