ELECTRICITY, by Terry Ray, is the latest and certainly gayest entry in the type of story common to Rom-Coms on film and onstage and told in the style of “SAME TIME NEXT YEAR.” Two people get together regularly but infrequently at the same locale and either grow closer or further apart and sometimes it’s both!
In this case it is Gary (Terry Ray) & Brad (Mel England) and the year is 1983. It is the 10th anniversary of their High School Graduation, and they are there to attend the reunion. Explaining that his wife had to back out of attending, Gary invites Brad to share his room. It isn’t long until the conversation turns towards themselves. Brad confesses he is basically a sex addict and not interested in or believing in monogamy. Gary confesses he is still in the closet and that there is no wife. He also confesses that he has had feelings towards Brad, feelings that he has had for the entire 10 years since graduating High School. A few verbal volleys later and they are going at it!
Fast Forward 10 years and another, more revealing, scene is played out. This repeats twice more, with each scene reflecting applicable issues of that time (Ronald Reagan, AIDS, gay marriage, among others), toward Gary’s and Brad’s own story arcs.
This structure works for and sometimes against the strength of this play. The 10-year gap between scenes allowed the playwright to have a choice of many major events that could have had some relevancy to the characters’ lives. But in selecting so many meaningful events which happened in the 10 years prior to each scene, we are left with some funny and well written quips that do not dig much below the surface before we are off to another topic. This also keeps a certain maximum depth to the play’s insights into the inner workings of Gary and Brad and keeping either from being a fully three-dimensional person.
This is not to say that I did not like the play. There were some truly funny moments in every scene as well as usually one or two moments which tugged at your heart strings. Terry Ray, who also wrote ELECTRICITY, plays the apparently naiver and more fastidious Gary. Mel England plays Brad, the one who seems to be the more secure in his sexuality, confessing to be a full-blown sex addict and incapable of having any kind of a meaningful relationship. There are definitely some ODD COUPLE underpinnings to these two “opposite attract” type of pairing. Since both Mr. Ray and Mr. England have played opposite each other before, there is wonderful chemistry between them. They made many moments feel real, akin to watching the joy of two old friends sharing a very In-Joke. Their performances and their on-stage chemistry kept the play touching and moving along. I could see how with other actors, it could easily have become two-dimensional and melodramatic.
If you want to see this play before it opens Off-Broadway later this season, you better hurry up, as the play runs only until Feb. 20, 2022. For tickets or more information, visit their website (www.desertroseplayhouse.org) or call the box office at 760-202-3000.