Steve by Mark Gerrard. Seven Dials Playhouse, Tower Street, London WC1 to 19 March 2022. 2**. William Russell

Middle aged New York gays do lead terrible lives although they seem to get more than enough sex to keep things going, some of it on line, some in the bushes at Fire Island judging by this latest play to cross the Atlantic. Just why one should feel for Steven and Stephen, 16 year’s together with a son called Stevie, is hard to fathom. The action takes place in what looks like Joe Allen’s where the pair, their male best friends and a lesbian with terminal cancer meet, discuss show tunes, especially those of Stephen Sondheim, and fall out loudly.
The play is strongly cast but someone needs to explain to director Andrew Keates that in a tiny theatre like the former Tristan Bates there is no need for his players to shout. Normal voices will hit the back wall no bother.
Some of the audience sit at tables at the side of the set with the action taking place on a revolve in the middle on to which various tables, chairs and a sofa get moved for the cast to sit at or on as the drama unfolds. David Ames carries most of the burden as the ageing one time dancer Steven who has discovered his partner Stephen, played with more restraint by Joe Aaron Reid, has been unfaithful. Most of his rage is confided to the group’s resident fag hag Carrie, played by Jenna Russell who is wearing a handkerchief covering her head so we know she has a fatal disease. Carrie, actress, waitress and whatever does not get to sing which is a waste of Jenna as, indeed, is the role which is conceived in stereotypical fashion. She wisecracks away like a second rate Dorothy Parker and appears to end up in a large brass cocktail shaker whose contents are destined to be strewn somewhere by Steven, possibly in those bushes with the poison ivy where things go on.
It may all be seen in New York as a deeply touching tale about relationships but viewed from an extremely hard kitchen chair in deepest Seven Dials it is the sort of evening one would abandon at the interval were there an interval and could critic’s etiquette permit.The fake Joe Allen set, however, is gorgeous, and the Argentinian actor Nico Conde doing a very nice running gag turn as the available hunky waiter at ever venue Steven visits is a bonus. Ben Papworth at the piano provides some background melodies by the obvious composer from to help things along which only makes on want more and more for Jenna to sing.
That hard chair was because some of the audience get to sit at on stage tables in the fake Joe Allen’s. The rest sit in nice comfortable seats rising in rows to the back wall of the theatre. Less Steven and a little more Stephen would help immensely.

Steven: David Ames.
Carrie: Jenna Russell.
Brian:Giles Cooper.
Stephen:Joe Aaron Reid.
Matt:Michael Walters.
Little Stevie:Axel Reid Manivel.

Director.Andrew Keates.
Set & Costume Designer :Lee Newby.
Sound Designer & Composer: Max Pappenheim.
Musical Director:Ben Papworth.
Video Designers:Dick Straker & Barbara Senoltova.
Lighting Designer:Neil Brinkworth.
Production Photographs: The Other Richard.

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