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Broadway Shockers 2017: Afterglow Becomes Sleeper Hit of the Off-Broadway Season

The ever-extending gay drama has been packing audiences and garnering headlines.

As 2017 draws to a close, TheaterMania looks back on some of the most jaw-dropping stories of the year.

Joe Chisholm, Patrick Reilly, and Brandon Haagenson star in S. Asher Gelman's Afterglow at the Loft at the Davenport Theatre.
(© © Mati Bardosh Gelman)

Who would have thought that a little gay drama that opened at the height of Pride season would still be around come New Year? But three extensions later, that is undeniably the case for S. Asher Gelman's Afterglow, off-Broadway's sleeper hit about sleeping around.

It tells the story of theater director Josh and his open marriage to Alex, a graduate student in chemistry. The two are expecting a child and everything is going great until Alex becomes increasingly jealous of the time Josh is spending with their latest third, a massage therapist named Darius (Gelman has revealed that the play is inspired by his own experience). Set designer Ann Beyersdorfer installed a working shower onstage, under which the play's most graphic scenes take place. All three actors spend a significant amount of stage time in the buff as they splash around in the murky waters of ethical polyamory.

Brandon Haagenson plays Josh, and Patrick Reilly plays Darius in Afterglow.
(© © Mati Bardosh Gelman)

While our reviewer had more of a hard time connecting with the privileged tone of the play, other critics deemed the play "soft-core" and "soap-operatic." Apparently, that's just fine with New York City theatergoers, who have been crowding into the Loft at the Davenport Theatre to see the play's emotionally (but mostly actually) bare performances.

A recent showing that invited the audience to disrobe along with the actors even earned a mention on Saturday Night Live, with Weekend Update's Colin Jost quipping, "It's the play critics are calling, 'Maybe Not Right Now?'" But in an age when commercial off-Broadway is all but dead, Afterglow thrives by bucking convention and getting buck naked.