Off-Off-Broadway Review: “At the Flash” at FringeNYC 2016 at Under St. Marks

Off-Off-Broadway Review: “At the Flash” at FringeNYC 2016 at Under St. Marks (Closed Wednesday August 24, 2016)
Written by Sean Chandler and David Leeper
Directed by David Zak
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Gay-themed plays have been a staple of the New York theater scene for decades, including the Fringe Festival, which offers over forty shows this year alluding to all aspects of gay life and history. Through the years, the content, impact and impression of these plays has changed considerably as has the struggle, acceptance and civil rights of the LGBTQ community. This theatrical history has evolved from “God of Vengeance,” “Boys in the Band,” “Falsettos,” “Love, Valor and Compassion” and “Angels in America” to name just a few on a long list. What is evident in these remarkable plays is the implicit evidence that the playwright is writing from life experiences creating real genuine characters with their own history that helps develop the story as they also reflected the present social status of the gay persona.

“At The Flash” a new play by Sean Chandler and David Leeper is noted in the program as a tribute to the generations that have come before us. It takes place at a gay bar over five decades, with the only noticeable change or growth in the establishment or gay evolution is at present day when the demeaning, self-centered, homosexual character Rod is turning the old gay bar into an entertainment mecca, complete with coffee shop, chichi restaurant and bar where he is under pressure to serve “those old queens their fruity martinis.” The five caricatures brought to life are merely tired, gay stereotypes spouting every imaginable cliché and have no substance or dimension. They are frozen in a time capsule, only depicting a situation reminiscent of each decade void of any emotional struggle, growth in the movement or social acceptance. It borders on being an insult rather than a tribute.

Mr. Leeper fares much better as an actor than a playwright with an admirable solo performance, creating all five characters using his skills in quick change with vocal and physical prowess. This is most evident in an intriguing shared monologue between all characters, changing so quickly they finish each other’s sentence as they change mood and subject matter. Unfortunately, this skilled performer cannot overcome the obstacles in the script he co-wrote falling prey to recognizable images and actions. As it stands now, “At The Flash” is out of date, antiquated in its structure and revelations, and holds on to the trope that all gays are troubled, unhappy and regretful or for that matter nasty, egotistical, bitchy bigots as employers. Gay pride escapes this eighty minute solo show being presented as part of the NY International Fringe Festival.