Ari Solomon, Sean Harris Oliver  and Kevin Kraussler Credit:  Michael O'Shea
Ari Solomon, Sean Harris Oliver
and Kevin Kraussler
Credit: Michael O’Shea

At PAL Studio until March 23
brownpapertickets.com or at the door

Posted on March 17, 2013

If I were an entertainment editor I wouldn’t send me to review this show. I’m just all wrong for it. Heterosexual grandmother – what could be a worse perspective from which to view a play about a gay couple – older guy/younger guy – hitting the doldrums in their ten-year relationship?

But getting ‘stuck’ – as in reaching stasis – in a relationship happens to almost everyone at some point. I can vouch for the fact that homosexuals don’t have an exclusive on couple trouble in that department. And straight or gay, as a fix for what’s falling apart, turning a twosome into a threesome is risky business.

Written by Evan Tsitsias and directed by Michael Dobbin, this Screaming Weenie production is a world première following a few years of workshopping. Over time, says Tsitsias, his views on monogamy have continually changed. If we buy into the last scene of Unstuck, the playwright appears to support monogamy (but only if it’s working) and to suggest that misery in a relationship cranks up a writer’s creative juices: a case of lose/win.

In the play, Matt (Kevin Kraussler) is a young playwright who is not only stuck – in the sense of no longer having any intimacy – in his relationship with Tim (Ari Solomon) but stuck on how to end the play he’s currently writing. Tim accuses Matt of always stirring things up between them when he can’t finish what he’s working on.

But this time it’s different: last night they both eyed a hot young guy at a party and after a lot of discussion, they now both admit they’d like to sleep with him.

We meet Tim and Matt in their sleek, up-market apartment (designer Glenn MacDonald’s tasteful glass and leather set) and it’s just before midnight on the eve of their tenth anniversary; Matt is worrying away at his laptop, Tim – dressed to go out on the town – has fallen asleep waiting for Matt. (“You should have stayed awake,” complains Matt. What?) They both have a present for each other. Take a guess.

Ari Solomon, Sean Harris Oliver and Kevin Kraussler Credit:
Ari Solomon, Sean Harris Oliver and Kevin Kraussler
Credit: Michael O’Shea

Obviously I’m not the best qualified to say why Matt and Tim are attracted to each other or why they’ve stayed together for so long. It can’t be sex because they aren’t having any and haven’t had any for six months. Matt, as portrayed by Kraussler, is priggish, petty, self-centred and unappreciative of the unconditional love offered by Tim. On the other hand, Solomon’s Tim is a bit of a goofball and what he gets from Matt – unless he likes being a doormat – is a mystery. But then, whoever knows what men/men, women/women or men/women see in each other? It’s one of life’s big mysteries.

Sean Harris Oliver is the hot boy-toy Jared and boy, is he cute. I think half the guys in the audience and most of the women would just love to have taken him home. But I think Dobbin lets Oliver go too far and while his “Cool. Cool.” and sexy posturings on the bed got the opening night crowd laughing, I think it would be a more interesting investigation of fidelity if Jared were played less wired, less spacey. Jared poses a real threat to this relationship and it’s not just the sex he offers which, Tim tries to rationalize, is just “body parts and saliva”. Young Jared is already weary of one-offs and his need for a long-term, loving relationship is palpable. That Tim and Matt have been together for ten years is amazing to him and a source of envy; “I’d kill for ten days. It’s lonely out there”, he says longingly.

While I might not be the best reviewer for Unstuck, I was engaged and was struck – not for the first time – by the similarity between hetero and homosexual relationships’ sticking points: one partner’s self-absorption, the other’s neediness and dependence; the flailing around for quick fixes; and the sadness and feeling of loss when loves come unstuck. Straight or gay, love hurts.