All men are created equal, but all theater is not. The quality of a show depends on the talent and budget on hand, which marks the difference between Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway shows. Then there are companies that choose to focus their energies on producing strong plays, playwrights, or performances. T. Schreiber Studio trains actors at all levels and produces full-length productions in order to give its students practice in developing a character through the rehearsal process and the show's run. This is not to say that the company doesn't put equal effort into its presentations' design elements; its main goal, however, is to allow the actor to do his or her work. T. Schreiber's current production of Love! Valour! Compassion! does just that.
Terrence McNally's brilliant piece on the changing landscape of gay life revolves around eight men who stay in the summer home of celebrated dancer/choreographer Gregory Mitchell over three holiday weekends in 1994. Fortysomething Gregory is in a four-year relationship with the 20-ish, visually impaired Bobby Brahms. "Old married couple" Arthur Pape and Perry Sellars are celebrating 14 years together. Failed British composer John Jeckyll has brought along his newest boy toy, dancer Ramon Fornos. And admitted musical theater queen Buzz Hauser is staying (and dealing with AIDS) alone. John's twin brother James, also in the advanced stages of AIDS, eventually comes over from England to join them.
John's lover, the hot-bodied, often nude Ramon, proceeds to throw the group's dynamic out of whack. He seduces Bobby, flirts with Arthur, and makes Gregory feel old. Sebastian LaCause (and his sculpted, tanned physique) fits the role's aesthetic requirements, but he is a little old to be believed as a cocky twentysomething.
Moreover, one would think a certain amount of animal magnetism is what draws people to Ramon. (Wouldn't it make sense that Bobby's attraction to him is based more on pheromones, since he can't see Ramon's ripped abs and Ramon is not very bright or personable?) But LaCause is a little too cool to play such a (supposedly) hot customer.
The rest of the cast delivers strong performances. Gary Cowling sparkles as Buzz, transcending the character's "tragic clown" surface to find shades of optimism and defeat. This is a person staring down death, and yet the audience is able to care about him without feeling buried by the gravity of his situation. John Lederer handles the potentially bland character of the affable, driven Gregory by lending him a quiet intensity that fills in what the author has left out.
Kenneth John McGregor, playing both the caustic John and the bubbly James, differentiates between the two through his voice and mannerisms, though they share a similar ennui. Peter Sloan and Terry Wynne have a natural chemistry between them as Perry, the cynical lawyer, and Arthur, the bleeding-heart accountant. Collin McGee plays Bobby as a na