“Steve” keeps audiences laughing despite dark themes

by Annaluz Cabrera

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Via Vulture

There are no dull moments in “Steve.” Zinger after zinger, the protagonists hardly give the audience any time to take a breath in between laughs. Steve, directed by Cynthia Nixon and written by Mark Gerrard, is an Off-Broadway play taking place at the Pershing Square Signature Center.

Steve features a middle-aged couple going through individual mid-life crises that result in affairs, breakups, and shocking revelations. Steven, played by Matt McGrath, is a stay-at-home dad, spending evenings and lunch dates with his friend Carrie, played by Ashlie Atkinson. They reminisce about their times as singing servers and as Stephen’s experience and failed career as a Broadway chorus boy. Most of the characters are introduced at Steven’s birthday dinner where he seems bitter and frustrated. He is uncertain about his relationship with his partner of 14 years, Stephen, played by Malcolm Gets, and suspects Stephen is cheating on him based on texts found on Stephen’s phone.

The phone begins as a simple prop that evolves into a driving force for not just the play but the set. His text messages appear on a lit screen in the background with surrounding colors changing depending on the moods. At times the text messages are hilarious and at other times they are dark. They give the audience an intimate look into the lives of the characters, allowing them to look through the facades the characters put up to hide their feelings and intentions.

Meanwhile, Steven and Stephen struggle to balance their new separate lives with their friendships. Carrie is dying of cancer, their other friends—Matt, played by Mario Cantone, and his partner, Brian, played by Jerry Dixon—are  having a ménage a trois with an unseen personal trainer named Steve. As Carrie’s condition debilitates and Stephen does more than flirt with Brian, Stephen happens to run into waiter Esteban, played by Francisco Pryor Garat, far too frequently. Even as their lives tumble into despair, they manage to keep the audience from feeling uncomfortable.

In a disturbing way, they are able to keep the audience laughing with an assortment of Broadway show references, song lyrics, and even insults as they battle through a couple of tragic events.

In all, Steve is a great comedic piece that theater fans will love and be able to connect with. Gerrard does an excellent job at keeping a dark plot light and humorous without it being insensitive. The only confusing part of the play is the title. Steve is the name of the unseen trainer that brings a couple of the characters apart. However, there are other characters that break relationships apart in the same way. Why that particular name was chosen remains a mystery. Nonetheless, the show is a must-see and will surely entertain the viewer.

“Steve” played at The Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 W. 42nd St, and ended its run in November

Annaluz Cabrera is a Staff Writer. Email her at theater@nyunews.com

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