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A tempting boy toy whets appetites in Convergence-Continuum’s In the Garden

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The Devil made them do it: Lucy Bredeson-Smith, Tony Thai, and Vince DePaul.
  • The Devil made them do it: Lucy Bredeson-Smith, Tony Thai, and Vince DePaul.

The story of Adam and Eve has always been fascinating, since it involves God, an evil snake, and irresistible temptation. In the play In the Garden, now at Convergence-Continuum, playwright Norman Allen folds those entities into one hyperactive bisexual street hustler named Gabe, who delights and torments four puffed-up urban posers.

The ambitious but often overly didactic script labors to blend spiritual observations, hard-edged rationality, and new age touchy-feely symbolism. But an impending slide into pseudo-intellectual irrelevance is happily blocked by the playwright's ability to craft realistic moments and some damn funny lines. And under Clyde Simon's direction, those lines are delivered with skill by a largely talented five-person cast.

Gabe starts the play naked, but it's his soul that's laid bare. It is purposely never made clear whether he is a student or a prostitute; homeless or rich; a kid, God, or the Devil himself. But he is undeniably erotic catnip for the preening adults who cross his path.

First in line for the Gabe sexathon is philosophy professor John (played with spot-on credibility by Vince DePaul), who beds his "student" Gabe, a boy stud who rattles off lines from the New Testament as easily as he sheds his knickers. That tryst is quickly followed by another, with John's wife Muriel (the consistently excellent Lucy Bredeson-Smith) and John's businessman-buddy Walter (a snarky Arthur Grothe). The more that they have of Gabe, the more they want, to feed their emptiness. Gabe is eager to be whatever they desire.

In between the paid-for boffings, Gabe retreats to the park, where he lives in tattered jeans and shares deep thoughts with Lizzie, a passerby who happens to work with Muriel at a fashion magazine and is engaged to Walter. Although burdened with a lot of spacey talk, Laurel Johnson makes Lizzie a blessedly likable and grounded presence.

Of course, this play requires a Gabe who could believably generate total sexual obsession. That's exactly what we get — at least physically — in Tony Thai, a lean fellow of mystical mien who has a winning grin. Unfortunately, Thai isn't able to enunciate when speaking rapidly. This results in some garbled passages, including the ultimate scene of Christlike catharsis.

Still, the play has some great lines, like Lizzie's when she discovers Walter's encounters with Gabe: "I'm picking out china, and you're out fucking the homeless?" When Garden blooms with wit, it fairly erupts.

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