Outstanding acting vivifies SNAP’s newest production. It’s Voices from the Closet, eight monologues written by Daena Schweiger about gay people’s struggles with coming out. Don’t expect the obvious, in the path of recently much-trod ground concerning people emerging into revealing light about their private lives. Schweiger has devised many original, imaginative stories. But also don’t expect moving connections to the tenderness of love, the sorrow of loss, pointed moments of brotherhood and sisterhood. What she has written most seems like thoughtful, intelligent explorations spanning time and place where gay people deal with their orientation in culturally diverse situations.
Schweiger has certainly done thorough research into some of her subjects, going into interesting aspects of English, Russian, Irish and Hollywood history. She tells the tales sequentially,1835 to 2012, a well-organized form of presentation. This adds to the overall impression of being more intellectual than emotional. In fact, two scenes have narrators not talking about themselves but about other people, gay people. And it sometimes feels as if characters are ruminating at a remove, rather than directly to those of us on the other side of the fourth wall. Those diffusing choices may have been made by the directors; four of them have staged two pieces each. (Full disclosure: I auditioned for two roles.)
Schweiger has put much eloquent language into several episodes and created wonderfully comic pieces, made all the more appealing by outstanding performances from David Ebke and Robby Stone. Ebke portrays a 1950s boy who, facing an impending possibility of a serious relationship, needs to tell his girlfriend that he may not be up to future conjugal conjunctions. His gawky awkwardness becomes a highlight, perfectly dovetailing with Schweiger’s inventive writing. Stone shines with charm and vitality as a Nebraska farm boy who prefers to spend a passel of time with his good buddy. A lot of time. Credit directors Echelle Childers and Todd Brooks for bringing out the best.
On the serious side, Scott Fowler gives much dimension to a portrait of a contemporary older man confronting living with AIDS while feeling the need to confess to his censorious father. Here though, director M. Michelle Phillips defuses the effect by having this character speak to a silent on-stage therapist rather than obviously reaching out to the audience. In another episode, Nicole Hawkins gives thoughtful, genuine meaning to a portrayal of a 1920s Irishwoman seeking immigrant status at Ellis Island. Michal Simpson’s inventive staging adds a good ironic twist.
The directors have put silent on-lookers into the scenes or other people personifying someone being spoken about. This gives added visual dimension. Plus lighting designer Joshua J. Mullady and scenic designer Ronnie Wells have added fine colors and textures to the multi-piece tapestry. Before the talk begins, you’ll see eight closets of many hues and designs standing side by side, some elements more subtle than others. Those doors never open, but what’s behind them comes out tellingly clear.
Voices From The Closet continues through June 22 at 3225 California Street, Omaha. Thurs.-Sat. 8 p.m. Sun. 6 p.m. June 22: 2 p.m. Tickets: $10 http://www.snapproductions.com