by: Sandi Durell
It’s difficult being a teenager – so much turmoil, hormones, questions, confusion. But being a gay teen in a Catholic School – well, that can be even more confusing.
“All the rules I want to break” scream the cast in the opening number “A Million Miles From Heaven,” followed by a tryst, showing Peter (Taylor Trensch), an awkward but sweet, susceptible geeky type and Jason (Jason Hite), the high school jock unable to out himself and deal with who he really is, in bed. Peter is dying to tell somebody but Jason’s response is to hook up with the new transfer student Ivy (Elizabeth Judd), with a promiscuous past, who is being pursed by Matt (Gerard Canonico). Jason’s sister, the hard exterior Nadia (Barrett Wilbert Weed) is not the best liked kid on the block, but a reliable supplier of drugs and also has a crush on Matt. Little cute Diane (Alice Lee) gets a lot of the laughs as an air head especially when she can’t figure out the truth about Peter and Jason in “Best Friend.” What’s a teenager to do? Seek out the solace of the school’s somewhat confused Priest Mike (Jerold E. Solomon) or the more liberal Sister Joan (Missi Pyle).
The story unfolds in some really emotional and high energy musical numbers that give insight into the extreme angst, pain and conflicts, to the credit of Damon Intrabartolo’s music and Jon Hartmere’s book and lyrics. The truth comes to fruition in the school play “Romeo and Juliet” where Ivy wins the role of the heroine and Jason plays Romeo. Peter having learned all the roles, stands in when Ivy isn’t available at a rehearsal, as sparks fly between the two.
Songs like “Best Kept Secret,” Portrait of a Girl”are revealing. Weed’s passionate, angry “You Don’t Know” is powerful and insightful. One of the funnier scenes is Sister Joan’s ethereal rendering “Hail Mary” as Virgin Mary aka sassy lounge singer and her 3 glittery backups as Peter seeks answers. Not sure this Mary has what he’s looking for although she’s got some great lines: “I may be a Virgin but I have been to Christopher Street . . . don’t tie up the request line . . . last time I sat down I was on a donkey. . . where am I gonna go, I’m the Virgin Mary. . . you are at a Madonna concert.”
The script is witty, filled with humorous one-liners (mostly Sister Joan) as director Stafford Arima attempts to find ways to put a new spin on the theme of homosexuality, religion and conflicted teenagers – difficult at best. “Bare” is a compilation of Spring Awakening, Lysistrata, Carrie, American Idiot in its efforts to carry forth the anguish of adolescence. The very talented, passionate and fearless cast get raves.
The set design by Donyale Werle is that of small photographs everywhere giving the illusion of stained glass when hit by Howell Binkley’s lighting. Costume design is by Tristan Raines, sound Keith Caggiano and choreography by Travis Wall.
“Bare” iat New World Stages, 340 West 50 Street, NYC