Los Angeles Theater Review: WHAT’S WRONG WITH ANGRY? (Celebration Theatre)

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by Sarah Taylor Ellis on September 16, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles

WHAT’S WRONG? IT’S ALL RIGHT

In thousands of YouTube videos, out-and-proud adults tell marginalized queer youth that life will get better. Yet the “It Gets Better” campaign advocates for a rather troublesome passivity. Hopes are pinned on an ambiguous future, and the question of exactly how things will get better remains unanswered.

In a stunning opening to Celebration Theatre’s 29th season, What’s Wrong with Angry? suggests that getting angry about the status quo – and activating that anger – may be the first step towards social change.

What’s Wrong with Angry? By Patrick Wilde at the Celebration Theatre - with Daniel Taylor, Miles Heymann, Kelly Schulmann – directed by Michael Matthews – Los Angeles Theater Review by Sarah Taylor EllisSteven Carter (the endearing Daniel Taylor) is an innocent young man: the only gay one at his Catholic boys school, or so he thinks. Fellow student John Westhead (Miles Heymann) may play macho with the guys at school, but he stumbles into Steven’s arms at the public toilets one day. In their closeted romance, filled with all the awkward silences and uncomfortable gropes of young love, Steven and John confront systematic prejudice and the continual threat of gay bashing.

Patrick Wilde’s play, originally produced in London in 1993, responded to a time in which legal sexual consent for homosexuals in Britain was 5 years older than for heterosexuals, and the law prohibited promoting homosexuality through teaching or by publishing material. Although laws may have changed, prejudice and narrow representations of homosexuality remain – in both England and the US. Director Michael Matthews smartly adapts a Spring Awakening aesthetic to the Celebration stage, ready to topple institutionalized prejudice against homosexuality with raw, youthful energy.

Matthews’ inventive staging particularly soars in transitions between scenes, where the characters inhabit a blissful, heightened realm of physical expression. Cricket S. Myers’ crisp sound design makes clear transitions between the diegetic music playing from the radio and the nondiegetic music of transitions. As pop music rises to the forefront, characters rock along with the beat and swirl Kurt Boetcher’s modular set pieces into place. In fact, music often offers a space of self-expression and meaningful connection throughout the play. Although Steven and John cannot partner with one another at the school dance, a smart bit of UV lighting (designed by Matthew Brian Denman) on the boys’ button-down white shirts crafts a glowing vision of the boys dancing together, even if their bodies never touch.

What’s Wrong with Angry? By Patrick Wilde at the Celebration Theatre - with Daniel Taylor, Miles Heymann, Kelly Schulmann – directed by Michael Matthews – Los Angeles Theater Review by Sarah Taylor EllisKelly Schulmann positively steals the stage as Linda, Steven’s ever-supportive straight female friend. Linda’s embrace of her curves especially shines in her rapturous, uninhibited dancing; Linda is an important role model for Steven, who is still learning to inhabit his body comfortably. Steven’s compelling journey towards the confidence to dance, the courage to speak, and the anger to scream propels the powerful political message of this glowing production of What’s Wrong with Angry?

Celebration Theatre, we hear you loud and clear.

stellis @ stageandcinema.com

photos by Miguel Montalvo

What’s Wrong with Angry?
open run
for tickets, visit http://www.celebrationtheatre.com/

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sandra Scissors September 17, 2011 at 7:16 am

Miles Heymann is amazing. What a great actor. Want to see more of him!

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