Goodman’s “Teddy Ferrara,” nearly three hours long, emulates the appeal of reality TV, disclosing every. single. moment. The good, the bad, the ugly. However, it was clear Goodman’s patronage was not well receptive of the piece. Following intermission, at least 40 percent of the audience did not return to their seats.
Author Christopher Shinn’s inspiration emerged from the media controversy surrounding the suicide of Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi. Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge, following relentless bullying for his sexual orientation. Clementi’s story launched nationwide debate, activism and outrage. “Teddy Ferrara” attempted to offer a fresh perspective on the hotly discussed topic, although falling short of providing any new commentary or incentive for change.
Teddy Ferrara (Ryan Heindl), the protagonist, mirrored the tragic life of Clementi. However, unlike the story of Clementi, the awkward, shy and mysterious Teddy was unable to appeal to the audience. Instead, the character presented himself to be despicable, untrustworthy and uncomfortable. Shinn depicted Teddy as a computer-programming nerd, who spends endless nights on “Man Hunt,” and performs sexual acts for a public web following. Such appalling behavior distracted the audience from the play’s purpose – exposing the hidden and dangerous stereotypes surrounding LGBTQ.
Indeed, the piece was not short on vulgar sexual exploitation and nudity. Throughout the performance, I observed many uncomfortable laughs, winces, cringes and expressions of shock. The excess of sexual content was unnecessary and lengthy, upsetting and disenchanting the young and the old.
Amidst the emphasis on sex, “Teddy Ferrara” details the hardships of Gabe (Liam Benzvi), an active LGBTQ student adviser, with a simple mission: change the face of gay relations. Gabe becomes involved with an overbearing, overprotective and slightly obsessive boyfriend (Adam Poss), and the audience witnesses the relationship dynamic unfold. However, the relationship proves to be a pointless distraction from the tragic affliction of Teddy.
The various sexual innuendos, relationships and characters work against Shinn’s purpose, ultimately consuming the audience’s attention and depriving the piece of any potential for social commentary.