DARE
Reviewed by Stephen Radosh
 
In our culture of instant answers and fascination with the here and now, what came before to lead us to where we are is often overlooked, or worse, completely forgotten, especially by today’s generation.  This truth, sadly, also applies to the younger members of the LGBT community.  With the medical advances against the HIV virus, becoming positive is no longer a death sentence.  Every year there are more and more countries giving gay couples the right to marry.  Gay and lesbian characters frequently appear in movies, plays and television programs, often as central characters and not just used as comic relief.  But to many millennials, anything that happened more than a few weeks ago is ‘so yesterday’s news.’  They often know nothing of the beginnings of the gay culture and its freedoms that they now take for granted.  The sacrifices made by so many during the Stonewall riots so that today’s gays and lesbians can meet and drink openly in a bar is practically unknown.  The swift and staggering toll that AIDS took on the LGBT community is something that existed in the distant past and is no longer worth thinking about.  Walking hand in hand in public no longer invites physical assault and verbal ridicule and is, in fact, hardly even noticed anymore. 
These are just some of the themes that are woven throughout DARE, the latest production at The Desert Rose Playhouse.  Written by Allan Baker and directed by Jim Strait, it tells the story of Jack (Richard Marlow), a gay man in a nursing home nearing the end of his life.  A young gay doctor (Mathew Hocutt ) comes to evaluate his mental state as Jack has stopped eating.  In the course of their conversations, Jack relates his life experiences, which we see in flashbacks (with Terry Huber playing the Jack of yesteryear), beginning as a closeted gay man dealing with his younger lover David (Noah Arce) and eventually becoming an activist then a bookstore owner and archivist selling all writings that are gay related.  In doing so, he hopes to pass on the knowledge to those who care to know and those who should know of the hard road walked by the men and women who stood and fought side by side to slowly but steadily bring the LGBT community the rights and acceptance it has today.  These episodes of his life take place in such ironically gay locations as San Francisco in the early 1970s, Fire Island in the late 1970s, and New York City in the late 1980s to 1990.
 As the elder Jack, Richard Marlowe has a tough role as he is onstage throughout the entire play.  His performance, which grew in strength as the play progressed, ultimately proved to be touching and quite moving.
Matthew Hocutt performance as Josh, the young gay doctor assigned to Jack’s case, initially seemed a bit aimless but soon found himself on solid ground as his character’s awareness of the sacrifices made by so many others grew and clearly had an impact and effect on him and, one assumes, the rest of his life.
In a small but powerful part, Robbie Wayne as the Nurse Attendant managed to capture and portray the blind hatred and hostility towards gay men that is still, all too sadly, expressed by a thankfully shrinking part of society.
The play covers a vast array of issues which is a mixed blessing.  In covering so many issues, the play doesn’t delve too deeply into the personal dramatic situations which would further our vested interest in the characters presented in the flashbacks.  However, the play does manage to remain continually engaging without ever becoming didactic.  For those who lived through the decades of the ‘60s and ‘70s, it serves as a good reminder of just how far the LGBT community has come regarding basic human rights.  For those younger audience members, it will be an excellent lesson in essential LGBT history.

DARE runs thru May 13, 2018 with performances Friday and Saturday nights at 8 PM and Sunday matinees at 2 PM.  For further information and tickets go to www.desertroseplayhouse.org