Vagabond women visit A-list gays

  • by Richard Dodds
  • Tuesday February 3, 2015
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A married gay couple (Scott Cox and Andrew Nance) throw a<br>bumpy birthday party during an unexpected visit from relatives (Terri Whipple<br>and Jenna Herz) in <i>Harbor</i> at New<br>Conservatory Theatre Center. Photo: Lois Tema
A married gay couple (Scott Cox and Andrew Nance) throw a
bumpy birthday party during an unexpected visit from relatives (Terri Whipple
and Jenna Herz) in Harbor at New
Conservatory Theatre Center. Photo: Lois Tema

The jokes in Harbor practically have air-quotes around them. And when jokes are signaled to this extent, inclinations toward laughter become quashed. "You make Charles Nelson Reilly look like the Marlboro man," says a pothead sister to her gay brother who has married well. The sister's teenage daughter says of her mother's succession of boyfriends, "I've seen so many assholes I could be a proctologist." And when the sister announces she is pregnant with a who's-the-daddy baby, her swanky brother-in-law rants against the tyranny of breeders' double-wide prams on sidewalks – a moldy-oldie jape – arguing that one of the benefits of being gay is freedom from children, which he places on a par with a "really great taste in window treatments."

In Chad Beguelin's comedy, the worlds of straight white trash and gay upper class can collide with sitcom predictability as gay stereotypes are reinforced in the we-can-now-laugh-at-ourselves ways of Will & Grace, Modern Family and, more specifically for those who didn't blink, The New Normal. But the play, now at New Conservatory Theatre Center, is willing to veer from its laugh track to head into some darker family drama. While the authenticity of these confrontations can also feel forced, they do provide a contrast to the steady beat of wisecracks that can too often miss the bull's-eye.

Director Ed Decker's production for NCTC seems a reasonable rendering of the material, and the performances range from good to excellent. It is the youngest cast member who falls into that latter category, as high school sophomore Jenna Herz brings a canny maturity to the role of Lottie, who lives with her vagabond mother in a van, and has the keenest take on the grownup absurdities surrounding her. Donna and Lottie's latest road trip takes them to Sag Harbor – or Fag Harbor, as Donna puts it – where the pair pays a surprise visit on Donna's horrified brother.

Kevin has heretofore kept his troubled family history at a remove from husband Ted, a high-style architect who has humored the unemployed Kevin's self-declared status as an aspiring novelist. The arrival of Donna and Lottie for a visit of vague duration at first upsets the household's carefully groomed routines, but this is nothing compred to the resulting turmoil when Donna suggests that Kevin's shallow life will find meaning if he and his husband agree to adopt Donna's forthcoming baby. The outcome is one of the play's more unpredictable – if emotionally unsatisfying – scenarios.

Scott Cox and Andrew Nance respectively play Kevin and Ted, and they do so with skill and passion, but with a bit of a flouncy veneer that is no longer a necessary accent to mine humor of gay characters. As ne'er-do-well sister Donna, Terri Whipple offers an edgy performance that is constantly throwing off sparks, in addition to a stream of inappropriate comments.

Devin Kasper's living-room set is reasonably handsome, if not quite up to the visions the characters evoke of Ted and Kevin's home, and it is unfortunately dominated by what could be a schoolroom blackboard where a center-stage picture window would be. It's actually a scrim that becomes semi-transparent for several scenes that are gauzily played behind it, but is otherwise a big black blank that dominates the space. If we're going to spend an uneven evening on Sag Harbor, we should at least have a view.


Harbor will run at New Conservatory Theatre Center through March 1. Tickets are $25-$45, Call 861-8972 or go to