I was there for a weekend five years ago, and I met a guy who seemed very nice. While chit-chatting over an Absolut and tonic, he informed me that he had "just recently gotten back into the gay world." As someone who has never taken a vacation from his sexuality, I wasn't quite sure what he was talking about. Well, it turns out that he was a "former" born again Christian and had decided a few years ago that he wasn't gay anymore. He was "cured". But, two unhappy years and one very unhappy wife later, he scooted out of the closet door again, and (of course) found me. He was a very sweet man, and he did keep stressing the fact that he was a former born again Christian. Yet he still had that Amway look in his eye, and I frighten easily.
This is what I remembered about San Francisco. I was in no hurry to return.
Message to Michael was written for my best friend David Serko, who died in 1992. In a nutshell, it's the story of two best friends, Michael and Kenny. They have been each other's primary relationship for a long time. When Kenny meets someone whom he starts to get serious about, the dynamic of his friendship with Michael is rocked. The play is very personal and very exposing, so--as you can imagine--it means a lot to me.
The first New York staging of the play was mounted by Rattlestick Productions about three years ago. I was very proud of the show, directed by Michael Scheman and played by six wonderful actors: David Beach, Kevin Cristaldi, Rick Hammerly, Michael Malone, Tony Meindl, and Eric Paeper. After we opened, there was a lot of good buzz: a piece in Back Stage about producers looking to move it to a larger house for an open-ended run, an item in Cindy Adams' column, and some terrific word of mouth. Rattlestick was excited, the press agent was ecstatic...and I was cautiously optimistic.
Then Peter Marks came to see the show. I was told by a couple of people who sat near him during the performance that he really seemed to enjoy it. They lied. Let me tell you, it's not much fun reading your name in a less than enthusiastic review in The New York Times. As I sat in the lobby with an advance copy of the Saturday paper, reading a notice that kicked around a couple years of work in six paragraphs, I heard sniffling behind me: Our press agent was sobbing into his copy of the review. (I would have preferred him patting me on the back, as opposed to weeping behind it.)
The reviews in other publications were quite good--the Post, The New Yorker, The Voice, and the gay bar rags. But the Times had spoken. The company extended the play for an additional, sold out month and then moved on to the next play in its season. Since then, Message to Michael has been done a few times around the country, where it has been received enthusiastically. After all that initial exhilaration and disappointment, I was very happy that the play was now making its way to the West Coast.