If great art is defined by the capacity to be interpreted in many ways, then Carol Lynn Pearson's “Facing East” is great art. This play is an examination of perspectives on gay life presented with such compassion as to offer perspective rather than definition. It is beautifully written and, on the whole, the Richmond Triangle Players do an admirable job with the material.
The setting is the graveside of Andrew, a young gay man who took his life after a long battle with his identity and the anti-gay policy of his religion. His mother, father and lover take turns admonishing themselves for their perceived contributions to his death. It is through real-time conversations and flashbacks that the audience feels Andrew's painful struggle to reconcile his sexuality with his religious beliefs, making him the most important character in the play even though he is physically absent.
Melissa Johnston Price is Ruth, the guilt ridden mother who was unable to “fix” her son's gayness and keep her family together for all eternity as is her charge by Mormon doctrine. She offers a contrast to her accepting husband, Alex, strikingly played by Daniel Moore, whose guilt lies in his failure to save his son through unconditional love. Marcus, the lover, played by rookie actor Peter O'Shanick, feels responsible because of his inability to prevent the suicide but also gratitude for his short time with Andrew.
Price and Moore turn in tear-jerking performances that show their acting prowess. O'Shanick, does well enough in his role but is unseasoned compared to the rest of the cast and throws the show slightly off at his entrance. But the virtues of the show far outshine this one flaw, making it a must-see part of the Acts of Faith Festival. S
“Facing East” runs through March 6 at Richmond Triangle Players new space at 1300 Altamont Ave. in Scott's Addition. Tickets $20-$25. For information go to richmondtriangleplayers.com or call 804-346-8113.