by David Lally · August 14, 2014
Usually when I hear the term “gay theater” I run for the hills. And even though No Homo has its share of gay characters, I was delightfully surprised by this amiable little comedy about Luke and Ash, two best friends from college who are now roommates. All their friends and family are convinced they’re secretly a couple, even though neither man is gay. Or at least, they’re pretty sure they’re not gay. It’s the exploration of this theme that lends the play its charm.
Mirroring Luke and Ash’s story is the story of Kris and Serge, Ash’s gay brother, who at the beginning of the play are celebrating their moving in together as a couple. Enter Luke’s sister Chrissy with a startling announcement that sets the events in motion.
The play won a slew of awards at the recent Hollywood Fringe Festival in June (yes, there IS such a thing), one of which was an award for Best Ensemble. The actors here are the same from that production with the exception of Karen Baughn as Chrissy. They could easily win that award in NYC. Credit should go to playwright Brandon Baruch for making each character sharply drawn and each actor adding nuances which make their characters seem like real people.
Ironically, I was more invested in Kris and Serge’s story because it dealt more realistically with a big issue with gay couples – the question of monogamy. As characters around them go back and forth questioning their sexuality, Kris and Serge each have a solid grip on themselves as people and in terms of their relationship. Watching their struggle as they navigate the slippery slope of an open relationship was both funny and touching. AJ Jones (Serge) and an hysterically funny without being over the top Henry McMillan (Kris) actually make a great couple. The brunch scene where Kris blatantly comes on to Ash, Serge’s brother, comparing sex to pancakes, is one of the highlights of the show.
The actors playing Luke (Benjamin Durham) and Ash (Jonny Rogers) did a deft job of going from friends and roommates to potential lovers to questioning each other’s sexuality and even their own. There’s a lot to ground to cover here. A large part of the play’s hook is the question of not only “are they or aren’t they?” but also “am I or am I not?”, but even through all the confusion, the character of Ash is pretty clear on where he thinks he stands. Not so much Luke, who I found to be a bit too ambiguous in his attitudes in general throughout the play. That may have been the playwright's intent but since Luke comes off in his dealings with people--especially his girlfriend (the charming yet clueless Elizabeth Ellson)--as rude or downright nasty, he ends up being very unlikeable. It makes me wonder why Luke and Ash are even friends in the first place, especially since Luke suspects Ash is gay, and his attitudes towards gay people are dismissive at best, perhaps due to his questioning his own sexuality.
No Homo is a play about the meaning of relationships, whether sex is involved or not, and how each person fits into the human puzzle. By that measure it succeeds on all accounts.