THE PRIDE at NCTC is stimulalting

(LEFT 2008) (l to r) Michael Cassidy, Maura Halloran & Joseph Salazar

(RIGHT 1958) (l to r) Maura Halloran, Joseph Salazar, Michael Cassidy

THE PRIDE: Drama by Alexi Kaye Campbell and directed by Arturo Catricala. New Conservatory Theatre Center (Decker Theatre), located at 25 Van Ness Ave. near Market St. in San Francisco, 94102. 415- 861-8972, or online at


THE PRIDE at NCTC is a lesson about change

Alexi Kaye Campbell started his theatrical career as an actor switching to playwriting only a few years ago. The Pride is his first effort and demonstrates a professional talent suggesting he has made the right career change. Change is the driving force in this play that begins in 1958 and switches to 2008. It is the public’s change in attitude to homosexuality in general, told through the trials and tribulations of very personal relationships that drives the story line.

Using non-linear construction, Campbell builds up the back story with flashbacks to define character and show us the action thus avoiding exposition. Another clever device is to use the same names for his three main characters in the 1958 and 2008 sequences. They are Phillip (Michael Cassidy), Oliver (Joseph Salazar) and Sylvia (Maura Halloran). This underlines how the attitude changes in 50 years would affect similar people in similar circumstances.

The play is set in London where uptight Phillip, an estate agent, married to former actress turned book illustrator Sylvia, entertain her writer boss, a charismatic Oliver. Although, the pleasant conversation reflects upper-middle class English manners, there is a palpable but hidden animosity of Phillip to Oliver. The first flashback takes us to Oliver’s apartment where he has hired a rent-boy dressed as a Nazi (Shane Fahy) to humiliate him after Oliver’s lover of over one year has split. The lover is Phillip who returns briefly interrupting the tryst. Cassidy and Salazar are marvelous foils for each other as Oliver insists that it is possible to love one person while indulging in indiscriminate anonymous sex with others. The outcome of that scene is devastating.

Despondent Oliver leans on his female confidant for emotional support and apparently continues his lustful ways. However, Phillip through misplaced remorse/guilt forces himself to seek psychiatric help through aversion therapy. Fahy who was frightening as the Nazi rent boy, shows a great talent as the attending psychiatrist. Sylvia discovers the relationship between Oliver and Phillip and Halloran gives a touching performance in her quiet confrontational meeting with Oliver.

In the 2008 section of the play, Oliver is a journalist who has recently been left by his lover, Philip, and seeks consolation with his best friend, Sylvia, an actress. Thus the parallel comparison begins. Oliver is hired by the editor (Fahy again) of a main stream magazine to write an article on gay sex and at the same time seeks consolation from his best friend, Sylvia. Fahy also nails this role as he changes from an impartial observer of gay life to an introspective person while relating the death of his favorite uncle from AIDS.

There are philosophical statements of pride in being what you are and justification for non-societal actions that will get your little gray brain cells stimulated. Director Catricalla has done an admirable job with the caveat that his first act staging is a bit confusing. But with his quality cast, this west coast premiere is almost a total winner and is well worth seeing. Running time less than 2 hours with an intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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