“Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea” at the New York International Fringe Festival at CSV Kabayitos (Closed Thursday August 15, 2013)

Written by Matthew Greene
Directed by Jerry Rapier
Reviewed by David Roberts and Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Friends from childhood, Adam (Topher Rasmussen) and Steve (Logan Tarantino) each need validation from the other as they move forward from graduation and decide where to spend their college years together. Adam needs to know his friend affirms his strong commitment to Mormon values and, after coming out to Adam, Steve needs to know his friend truly understands his sexual status and accepts him. An idyllic pre-Fall scenario which does not play out as planned. Mormon and gay simply do not mix.

Matthew Greene’s script folds scenes from Adam and Steve’s competitive and naïve childhood into scenes from post-high school and into the future of these two friends. After sharing his sexual status with Adam, Steve notices his friend beginning to distance himself until he discovers that Adam has decided to join a mission in Kenya. Throughout the play, the friends reconnect and seek permission from one another to simply be who they are. Their missions for self discovery and self acceptance parallel one another; however they affirm that it is “difficult to support what you cannot understand.”

Adam returns early from his mission physically and spiritually broken by an unnamed but serious illness. Steve has found and recently lost his first love relationship. As they meet, they affirm their love for one another, reminisce about years past and wonder about their uncertain future. Adam has lost some of his faith and Steve has begun to gain faith in himself and in the future. In a charming and heartfelt scene, Adam tells Steve that his only true connection while in Kenya was with a gay couple. Perhaps this is Adam’s final gift to the boy and young man whom he loved and always wanted to embrace as family.

Topher Rasmussen and Logan Tarantino are two young promising actors that possess the unique ability to command a stage when listening and remaining focused on the dialogue. They are generous and gracious performers as they explore their innate feelings and control emotions that sometimes seep through their pores and at times erupt in a fiery meltdown. They are faced with the difficult task of portraying characters as high school adolescents coming of age to mature responsible young adults, and the attempt is admirable. Mr. Rasmussen creates a dedicated Adam with explicit reactions that expose his character and inherent Mormon upbringing. He is fascinating to watch as he explores unknown territory and stumbles over surfacing obstacles along the developing path. Mr. Tarantino occupies a strong, virile, masculine athlete in Steve and reveals his concerns and fears as a gay youth with intelligence, vulnerability and sincerity. Never indulging in stereotypical behavior, he embraces his character who is determined to overcome conservative mores; as a result, he produces a stable, honest and honorable role model. Their characters’ relationship might falter but their performances never do as they each follow their journey of discovery.