Despite being saddled with a rather terrible title, Chad Beckim’s The Main(e) Play, getting its world premiere at the Lion Theater, is a provocative drama that examines issues such as single parenthood and abortion from a fresh perspective. By focusing on two male characters in relation to these hot-button topics, Beckim explores territory seldom represented in theater, while still refusing to come up with any easy answers.
Brothers Roy (Michael Gladis) and Shane (Alexander Alioto) have taken wildly divergent paths in life. Roy stayed home in Maine, had a son named Jay, divorced his wife, and is raising his boy — who seems to be an absolute terror — on his own. Shane took off to New York City to pursue an acting career, leaving behind his friends and family — including ex-girlfriend Jess (Susan Dahl), who had a late-term abortion while pregnant with Shane’s child. Shane’s return to Maine for a Thanksgiving visit stirs up old feelings and makes the audience wonder which brother made the right choice, or if either of them did.
Gladis, a star of the hit AMC series Mad Men, gives an understated, yet deeply evocative performance. The love Roy has for both his brother and his son is clearly in evidence, but there’s also an undercurrent of quiet menace that could be quite terrifying if Roy were to ever lose his temper. Alioto’s Shane wears his resentments more plainly, and his volatile nature earns him the apt nickname of “Hurricane Shane.” Yet, the actor also internalizes a good deal of his character’s emotions, allowing for a subtlety of expression that is captivating.
Dahl does a credible job with a difficult role, striking a good balance between the feelings Jess obviously still holds for Shane and the pride, doubt, and anger that she uses to keep him at a safe-but-not-too-safe distance. Curran Connor is amusing as Jess’ current boyfriend Rooster, and rounding out the cast is Allyson Morgan as a girl scout who shows up at Roy’s door demanding money for the cookies he purchased from her.
Director Robert O’Hara eschews the more melodramatic elements of the story in favor of delving into the rich subtext of the primary characters. While it’s clear that Roy and Shane share a deep connection, it’s just as clear that a gulf has opened up between them and they no longer recognize themselves within each other. Their final exchange in the play keenly demonstrates the damage they are capable of inflicting by simply being honest, and the regrets and recriminations that they are bound to feel as a result.