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Together Alone
by P.J. Castellaneta
A giant production presentation,
at Theatre Passe Muraille's Backspace,
16 Ryerson Avenue, Toronto.
November 13 to December 8, 1996

A Stage Door Review by Jim Lingerfelt and Roger Kershaw
(Your comments and reviews are also welcome. Please?)

Together Alone by P.J. Castellaneta delivers one surprise after another. Produced by giant productions co-op and now playing at Theatre Passe Muraille’s intimate backspace, this wonderfully engrossing play is based on the author’s award-winning film of the same name. It is a raw and compelling study of a one-night encounter between two men. What could have been just another sex-filled play about failed gay relationships (e.g., J. E. Parker’s 2 Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter’s Night), Together Alone succeeds in its ability to draw you into their story and to care deeply about the characters. It’s a sensitive, intelligent and daring play.
-----Director Larry Peloso’s staging of the single act starts in the theatre’s mezzanine bar, as the patrons are taking their seats below. As the 8:00 p.m. curtain (and last call at the bar) draws closer, two well-dressed men are still standing at the railing getting to know one another. Soon, our two characters leave the bar, walk through the audience and enter the set (an apartment bedroom) and immediately engage in sex. What an opening it is: all strobes and loud dance music—the effect is overwhelming but it’s the story after the sex that sets this play apart. The characters of Brian (with an "I"), an egocentric marketing director, and Bryan (with a "why"), the sensitive book store manager, embark on a learning experience that brings them together, and ultimately leaves them alone.
-----AIDS awareness is a major theme as the two Brians start to debate the unsafe sex they have just experienced. As the story progresses, they learn about each other’s failed relationships, and a growing realization of something special between them. Although it’s understood to be a one-night stand, they soon recognize they care about each other. The author communicates this closeness in spirit as they discuss an identical dream they have just shared. This fantastical yet effective device was enhanced with superb lighting and music, drawing the audience into the dream. Later, after several idealistic confrontations, Brian admits he is married with a son and that he’s bisexual, devastating Bryan, who is left shell-shocked and alone on the bed. The emotional impact of the final moments is undeniable as we are left with two lonely men who want desperately to be together, but know they can never be.
----- Director Peloso has cast superb local actors as the two Bri/yans. Glen Peloso’s Bryan is sensitive, kind and somewhat naïve. The role calls for a complete understanding of the gay man and Peloso delivers the goods. Potential soul mate yet very married Brian is wonderfully acted by Stephen Sparks. His blond, straight looks are perfect for the duplicitous married father who begins to care deeply for Bryan but is trapped in a situation he is unwilling to change. Both actors obviously have a wonderful professional relationship and their chemistry transfers well to the stage. You care about them and vainly hope the relationship will continue.
----- J. J. Shamata’s superb lighting and the one-room set by Taavo Soodor effectively use the black and white colour scheme to emphasize Bryan’s view of life.
----- The themes in Together Alone are relevant to audiences both gay and straight. Love, deception, fear, and loneliness are all brought together in a wonderfully sensitive and intelligent manner. It’s a play that will leave you rejoicing in the fact that you are not alone.
-----Together Alone is playing at Theatre Passe Muraille’s Backspace, 16 Ryerson Avenue near Queen and Bathurst, Tuesdays through Sundays, until December 8, 1996. Phone 416/504-PLAY (7529). Tickets are $16 with PWYC Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m.


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