A Chase Too Brief

The postcard, program, and other promotional materials for Chaser all declare in serious-looking font that the play contains, “Male nudity and scenes of a sexual nature.” At least it's obvious that they know what they’re selling. The show is a rote examination of bug chasing, the troubling trend of gay men actively seeking HIV virus infection. Playwright Howard Walters wisely leaves politics at the door, but the even-handed approach means his play has nowhere to go once the initial concept is revealed. Eventually, Chaser just turns into a shouting match. The first date between Dominick, a tightly wound fashion consultant, and Val, a charming out of work actor, has gone well enough that the pair has ended up in Dominick’s apartment. Dominick doesn’t believe a guy as cute as Val would ever go for him, but he eventually succumbs to Val’s irresistible smile, leading the rest of their night into dangerous territory.

Jake Alexander as Dominick and Wil Petre as Val have great chemistry together, so much so that their onstage encounter feels less like a first date and more like a third or fourth date. The two make all kinds of wild judgments about one another when they barely know each other, so nothing they say is particularly effective. The audience never gets to see these characters before they decide to sleep together. Walters would do well to add some exposition at the beginning, allowing viewers to get to know these men better.

As such, the experience is all set-up and mostly no payoff. Audiences aren’t stupid. When they go see Chaser , whose logo is creepily made of various kinds of bugs, they know what the title means and what’s going to happen. Once the play's secret is disclosed, it doesn't explore new topics or deepen the understanding between these two men. It just sits there. As for the promised “male nudity and scenes of a sexual nature,” these are there, but certainly not the guilty pleasure main attraction for peeping tom audiences.

The show, which runs a brisk 55 minutes, ends so suddenly that there was a slight hesitation in the audience as the lights went down over whether or not clapping should begin. Both Dominick and Val are interesting characters played by good actors. Walters should trust his audience to go with them beyond mere surface level.

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