Monogamy. A recent report suggests that about a third of gay men are in an open relationship (other studies suggest 50%).
Open relationships present many challenges, not least of all the question of how attached you should get to someone who wants to keep it loose. Eventually, the initial fun and games might be overshadowed by paranoia, jealousy and hurt. Afterglow explores this territory.
Josh (Peter McPherson) and Alex (Victor Hugo) are living the best life in New York: an amazing flat in Manhattan, a child coming soon, and an open marriage, with some rules attached - until they have a threesome with an attractive young masseur, Darius (James Nicholson). With time, the three men begin to suffer the agony of jealousy and betrayal. Can rules win over the heart?
After a successful run at Southwark Playhouse in 2019, Afterglow, by and directed by S. Asher Gelman, is back for a new London season.
The play begins with a "bed" in the middle of the stage and three naked, intertwined bodies emerging from the bed sheets.
There are multiple nude scenes in the play. The characters are often literally and metaphorically naked, but this feels more naturalistic and not gratuitous. Darius enters the lives of Josh and Alex like a tornado, and the three characters will have to deal with the emotional fallout of their night of passion. The good intimacy and chemistry of the actors and the honest dialogues make the story realistic and true, even if probably it doesn't bring anything new to the “monogamy's debate”.
The production knows how to keep the audience involved even if you can see where it is going.
The three actors play their parts well, moving swiftly from neediness, to control and to vulnerability. The set, designed by Ann Beyersdorfer, is simple and adaptable and recreates well the different locations; but the fact that the actors have to do all of the scene changes themselves makes the energy of the play drop at times.
There are no answers offered in Afterglow, but the play raises many questions among the audience – particularly gay audiences. And these questions are not often explored in theatre. But it is also an honest and fresh piece of theatre about the universal themes of love, sex and marriage, and everything in between.
It runs until 10 February.
Photos: The Other Richard