Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Moonlight & Love Songs at GayFest NYC

Gerald McCullouch and Nick Bailey
One of the great things about New York is when you stumble upon something unexpected. Not sure of what it is you are going to find when you attend an event and then discovering just how wonderful it is. That is how I felt this past Sunday attending a performance at GayFest NYC. Not knowing much about the organization, I quickly learned from producers Bruce Robert Harris and Jack W. Batman that it is their seventh season and 5th year of presenting the festival of gay-themed plays. One of the wonderful things about this festival is that all proceeds benefit The Harvey Milk High School - from ticket sales to purchases at the concession stand. The organization has presented 40 scholarships to graduating seniors and established an accredited elective Playwriting program at the school.

I attended the first play at the festival "Moonlight & Love Songs" by Scott C. Sickles after interviewing one of the leads for a BroadwayWorld interview. Mr. Sickles has written a moving love story about a 45 year old man who falls for a 20 year old college student. The two bond on their love of film which gives a foundation for this May/December romance.

I was very drawn to the piece because when I first moved to NYC at the young age of 18, I was in a relationship with a man many years my senior. I saw the relationship one way then and see it through different eyes with age. Now in my forties and in a long, loving relationship with someone my own age, I feel like Joni Mitchell and have 'looked at love from both sides now'. Sickles nails the complexities in this relationship in such a powerful way without alienating an audience or making them judge the older man and director Steven Petrillo has assembled a wonderful cast and worked out each nuance of this incredible story.

The two amazing actors playing Harry (the 45 year old) and Jim (the 20 year old) deserve much of the kudos in how they are portrayed. Television and film actor Gerald McCullouch shows Harry as a man who has not been able to find the right man. He is not looking for someone when Jim enters his life, but circumstances come into play. McCullouch's performance is rich with many levels. He appears shy and introverted as the show begins and the aggressive and self-assured performance of Nick Bailey causes Jim to seize the challenge. Both actors show a wide range as we witness the shift in their relationship. McCullouch literally brought me to tears; sometimes by what Harry chooses not to say to Jim and what this fine actor can portray in a look, a pause, or a catch in his voice. Bailey transforms in front of our eyes; an impressive feat for an actor of his age. They are but two in this wonderful ensemble piece of seven fine actors with a special mention going to the two women that play the sister of one and the mother of the other. Kathryn Markey and Christine Verleny both bring vibrancy to their scenes and great insight into the 'lost in love' couple. (Plus I had a wonderful discussion with talented cast member Robert Meksin afterwards as we left the theater and I swear we've crossed paths in NJ Theater at some point in our lives.) 

The cast of Moonlight & Love Songs
Thank you to GAYFEST NYC for presenting such powerful pieces and allowing writers like Scott C. Sickles to take chances with subject matters in front of your audiences.

If you find yourself in New York celebrating gay pride this coming month, make sure you treat yourself to the shows at GAYFEST NYC. "Moonlight & Love Songs" runs through June 2, 2013. "The Loves of Mr. Lincoln" (about the love letters between Lincoln and his longtime friend Joshua Speed) by David Brendan Hopes runs June 6 - June 16, 2013. They are also running in rep "Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde" by Mois├ęs Kaufman May 30 - June 16, 2013 presented by The BASiC Theatre Project. 

Photo Credit: Carlos Gustavo Monroy

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