Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018
 

Post-coital conversationalists

Theatre

'Two Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night' plays SF


Scott Douglas Cunningham and Paul Lekakis in Two Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night. Photo: Holly McDade
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ADVERTISMENT

The poster photograph for Two Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night emphasizes what the title promises. "There is truth in advertising," says Paul Lekakis, one of the two handsome naked figures entwined on a rumpled bed in the official photo for the production now at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. "There are a lot of fun, playful sexual moments, but then you start listening to their conversation, and people are surprised at how deep it really is."

James Edwin Parker's play was first seen in New York in 1995, got a good review in The New York Times, but was largely forgotten when the Rattlestick Theatre decided to revive it as part of a series of readings to celebrate its 20th anniversary. "We just did it with scripts and sitting in chairs, and the audience really responded," said David Drake, an actor and director best known for his solo play The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me. "I realized that this play still has a life."

In the reading, Drake was playing the part of Peter, a cynical stud who has little patience for the romantic longings expressed by Daryl, his pick-up for the evening, in a post-coital getting-to-know-you conversation. "They said, 'Let's do a revival,' but I said I would be more interested in directing it than acting in it."

And that's what happened when the Island Repertory Theatre Company on Fire Island produced the play last September. For the role of Peter, Drake thought of Lekakis, whose career has included music (the 1987 disco hit "Boom Boom, Boom (Let's Go Back to My Room)," high-fashion modeling, several film roles (including Circuit), and a stint as a strung-out male escort who hid his HIV-positive status from clients.

"I had met Paul at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie version of Larry Kramer, and he was talking to me about taking an acting class and the Uta Hagen book, and I thought, 'Oh, you're a real actor.' So when the play came up, I went, 'Ding, Paul Lekakis is looking for a real role,' and I suddenly had one in my hands."

He tracked Lekakis down in Tewksbury, N.J., where he was then in a relationship. "When David said Fire Island, I said, 'Oh, that's not so far away,' after having lived in Los Angeles for the last 13 years. It's a nice little project, but I had some questions about it."

Such as?

"The nudity," Lekakis replied. "I'm not reluctant to do nudity at all, as long as it's shot well in a film. So, I was like, 'OK, David, what are you thinking?' And we worked out the staging and what I was comfortable doing. We talked about the intention of the play, and how it wasn't a Cute Boys in Their Underwear kind of play, though the title suggests that."

To play Daryl, a lonely 36-year-old graphics designer, Drake cast Scott Douglas Cunningham in the Fire Island production. "I had met him at a party, and he was playing Michael in Boys in the Band on Fire Island, and I had played Michael in New York. And we talked about the character, and again, I thought, 'Oh, he's a

Director David Drake and actors Paul Lekakis and Scott Douglas Cunningham.
real actor.'" Cunningham will be making his SF debut in Two Boys .

The director, the set designer, and the cast have been working on adapting the production, presented in a 50-seat theater on Fire Island, to the considerably more spacious Lorraine Hansberry Theatre. "The truth," Drake said, "has to be projected further."

A change being carried over from the Fire Island production is the year when the play's action is supposedly taking place. "The script says it takes place in 1994, but I thought it felt more like the late 1980s, in terms of how people thought about AIDS and the treatments that were available," Drake said. "The playwright was very amenable to making changes, and he said he had actually written it in the late 1980s."

While neither of the characters has HIV, their statuses are discussed, and its threat hovers over their sexual encounter — and one of the characters has an offstage AIDS situation revealed late in the play. "That's the 'cold winter's night' part of the title," Drake said. "There are, by the way, quite a few laughs. It's not as dark as we're painting it."

The SF production developed after Rory Paull of Rrazz Productions (which books the Empire Plush Room) saw the Fire Island production. "He fell in love with it, and he thought it just had to come to San Francisco, and here we are," Drake said.

Lekakis, now in a new relationship, is out of New Jersey and back in Los Angeles. "We also had the opportunity to do it in P-town, but because I'm in LA again, San Francisco was great."

The actor, who is writing an autobiography about the reordering of a disordered life, sees Two Boys as "sort of a lily pad, a stepping stone" for future projects that include screenplays based on various chapters of his life. "When I started acting, really jumping in five or six years ago, I felt so confident when I realized, 'Oh, I have all my experiences to draw on. This is my arsenal.'"

This will be the second summer Lekakis has been drawing on his arsenal for his role in Two Boys. "I have to admit, it's not the funnest way to spend your summer. The play's an emotional roller coaster. It's rewarding, but when everyone's walking around wearing flip-flops, they are, like, in a totally different head space."

"In Fire Island," Drake concurred, "we were competing with the sunset."

Two Boys in a Bed on a Cold Winter's Night will run at Lorraine Hansberry Theatre through July 29. Tickets are $40-$45. Call (866) 468-3399 or go to www.lorrainehansberrytheatre.com






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