Kevin Spirtas and Scott Kerns in Loaded
(© David Morgan)
Kevin Spirtas and Scott Kerns in Loaded
(© David Morgan)
What's supposed to be a night of cuddling and sex between two gay men turns into an evening of debate in Elliot Ramón Potts' Loaded, playing at the Lion Theatre. There's plenty of promise in this potentially provocative two-hander, but unfortunately, contrived writing, fussy direction from Michael Unger, and a curious lack of chemistry between performers Kevin Spirtas and Scott Kerns combine to make the piece a truly wearisome theater experience.

Patrick (Spirtas) and Jude (Scott Kerns) have gotten together in the former's over-crammed garret apartment (terrifically rendered by scenic designer Adam Köch) for one of their frequent hookups. The difference with this evening, though, is that it will be the first time that 25-year-old Jude has slept over with the 47-year-old Patrick. A glib comment from the older man about lesbians, though, sets the younger guy's PC-hairs on end, and this sets the two to squabbling. Their bickering and all-out fighting continues for much of the remainder of the evening, in which there are only brief respites during which the Viagra-filled Patrick attempts to get Jude back into bed and the overly cerebral Jude tries to bond on a nonsexual level with his older playmate.

It's not just Patrick's disdainful attitude toward lesbians that causes friction between the two men. Jude's passionate support for gay marriage also sets the two men at one another. Similarly, the two nearly come to blows over HIV-issues and safe sex practices. Throughout, Jude's demeanor is youthfully arrogant and self-righteous, while Patrick argues from a jadedly embittered point-of-view.

While the issues that come up between the guys -- and the cross-generational viewpoints they espouse -- could make for ripping, and even poignant, drama, Loaded often feels like a debate that's awkwardly crammed into a theatrical context. While Potts provides a detailed backstory for Jude, he offers only hazy details of Patrick's life, making the character feel merely like a generalized type with attitudes and viewpoints that are convenient for the play's talking points.

Spirtas and Kerns both tear into their characters' rhetoric with vigor and conviction, yet it's difficult to sense the same sort of passion in the men's physical and emotional relationship to one another. They talk -- in detail -- about the sorts of activities in which they've engaged when together and online; things that could fuel a small porn studio. Yet, these men rarely seem like voracious sexual beings who have been inextricably drawn to one another from across a generational divide. And without this sense of unconditional mutual attraction and need, one wonders why one of these two exceedingly independent and strong-willed individuals never finds a way to extricate himself from the unpleasantness at hand. By the time Loaded reaches its saccharine and contrived final moments, theatergoers may very well have been contemplating their own means of egress from this sadly unsatisfying piece.