Aidan's Bed: Soda In Need of Proper Handling

Local Arts Reviews

Aidan's Bed: Soda In Need of Proper Handling

Hyde Park Theatre,

through March 24

Running Time: 1 hr, 30 min

When HBO began airing Sex and the City in 1998, a rumor circulated that the show was originally about four gay men in New York, not four women, but it was changed because TV audiences -- even premium cable subscribers -- weren't ready for a show about the sex lives of gay men. In Aidan's Bed, Blake Yelavich has written the beginnings of that series.

Using the seven deadly sins as a framework, Yelavich centers his not-so-naughty Austin universe in Manhattan around Aidan, a gay man with a scar -- a physical scar, running from chin to forehead -- along with three other gay men and the indispensable fag hag. Serving as both playwright and director, Yelavich tries to find love in seven different Manhattan bedrooms. As a written work, Aidan's Bed is like a bottle of soda, fizzling and popping with characters who are laughable, wry, and sardonic -- part soap opera and part sociological study -- but in its direction, the play is closeted with needlessly circular dialogue, repetitious arguments, and palliating dramatic energy, proving that even the best soda can go flat without proper handling.

The first scene, titled "Ennui," begins with Aidan putting the finishing touches on his night on the town by crawling into bed with his boyfriend, Barret, who has been reading a thriller titled The Third Deadly Sin. A fight ensues, but it's neither thrilling nor even very engaging. There is very little in the way of physical acting -- Barret lays in bed while Aidan drifts around the room -- and the energy itself is monotonous, despite its Wizard of Oz references. Although the title of the scene foreshadows tedium, the fight and subsequent breakup of Aidan and Barret is downright boring, with little emotional ebb and flow and uneventful acting.

In sharp contrast, the next scene finds Yelavich uncovering the set of a network soap opera. Clint, a longtime player on the soap, and Deidre, a relatively new player, are rehearsing a sex scene -- Jessica Barst wears a bedroom outfit that leaves little to the imagination. It's suitably ironic -- a closeted gay man rehearsing a heterosexual sex scene -- and bounces along with the right combination of seriousness and impudence, using Yelavich's signature call 'n' response chaff.

But just when the energy picks up, it stalls again. The last two scenes before intermission trudge forward as a result of Yelavich's staid, straight-from-the-book direction. After intermission, the origin of the scar is revealed and "Envy" is braved, a scene where Joe Chauncey recites his lines like a spitfire on a deadline. All five characters meet for the play's closing scene, "Pride," which teems with energy, goodwill, and memorable lines, such as "You've made your bed and we're all in it."

Unlike the play's overall pace, the set is efficient and exact. The different beds are created by exchanging different foot and headboard panels. Also notable is the use of three-wheeled window frames, placed downstage, giving the evening's experience a Rear Window voyeuristic feel. When the play begins, as well as during intermission, the windows are pushed offstage, breaking open the fourth wall, ushering the audience into the world of Aidan's Bed.

To its credit, Yelavich's play does not dumb down the homosexual drama the way, say, Showtime's Americanization of Channel Four's Queer as Folk does; it presents four men with interpersonal problems, just like anyone else. And though Yelavich stumbles directorally, Aidan's Bed is charming. And delightful, sweety dahling.

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Aidan's Bed, Blake Yelavich, Naughty Austin, Jessica Barst, Joe Chauncey

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