As anybody who has ever spent any time in analysis knows, guilt is a waste of energy, a useless emotion. And yet without it, how much of world drama would be instantly null and void?
Howard Casner uses guilt as the linchpin for his dreamlike Endless Night...Sweet Delight, a play that dives deep into the messy, incestuous world of gay relationships, and in spite of its excessive length, emerges as a moving drama in the manner of Lanford Wilson and his Tally clan. Oran is a singer who retreats to the country farm of a former lover, Coop, to recover from the death of his life partner, Yuri. While there, he becomes involved with the ghost of a local legend, Shad, whose own experiences in the early 20th century mirror Oran's own. Their bizarre affair (which defies all logic, but it's that sort of play, folks) leads Oran back into the world of the living, and Shad finally is able to let go of his earthly roots. Truthfully, it all gets a little precious, and could have benefited from some judicious cutting and a faster-paced production. What saved the play from collapsing into a jumble of coincidence and cliché were Casner's lyrical writing, Robert Crest's clear-sighted if languorous direction, and the strong performances of the cast.
As the guilt-ridden Oran, John Warren gave a lovely, well-considered performance, never afraid to allow his character's vulnerability or darker aspects to show through. As Shad, Michael Vaccaro was a constant, haunting presence, even when he wasn't physically on the stage, and Anson Hedges played Coop with a well-defined sense of humor that made his character completely believable. As Coop's partner, Bill, James Gordon played stereotype with authority and was a complete hoot. Barbara Ayres Bruno, as Oran's agent, Carry, did what she could with a role that was essentially expositional.
Bill Wood's set was a faithful rendition of a country farmhouse kitchen and the surrounding countryside, beautifully conceived and executed; Tom Claypool's costumes were subtle but finely attuned to each character; and Martin Strenczewilk lit the production with dark blues and ambers that established the moody tone of the piece.
If at times Endless Night...Sweet Delight did seem endless and not quite sweet, and if it relied a little too heavily on convention to make its point, at the very least it did have a firm point of view about itself, and the memories of its finer moments resonated for hours after the final curtain.
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita