Recently I saw the original play “Teddy Ferrara” written by Christopher Shinn and directed by Evan Cabnet at the Goodman Theater. This new play revolves around many different plots but is mainly about relationships and how it is impossible to know how others are suffering. The play portrays how issues, such as the fact that the gay community still feels discriminated, can be lost due to the smaller issues and drama. The play did a good job of making the audience think and understand some of the issues facing young adults in the world today.
The main character Gabe (Liam Benzvi) is gay and is attempting to build a support system to help gay people find understanding and advocacy. He befriends Teddy Ferrara (Ryan Heindl) an awkward freshman who is gay, lonely and clearly struggling with his situation. Gabe’s closest friends include Tim (Josh Salt) his only straight friend and “on and off again” boyfriend Drew (Adam Poss). The play begins with Gabe attempting to build a support system for LGBT students on campus. Teddy Ferrara is one such student who tries to make a connection with other LGBT students but finds himself more comfortable interacting with others on a gay website. Online he is able to hide his personal information and pretends to be whomever he pleases. It was apparent in the play that Teddy wanted to have relationships with others but never fit in for different reasons, even in the gay environment. Part of this was due to Teddy’s awkward nature and even though others accepted him he never realized it due to his inaction or lack of a desire to pursue human contact. Gabe and the other characters never knew how lonely Teddy was or how much he was suffering.
Halfway through the play the plot revolves around Teddy’s suicide and how his death affected the others. His death became not about Teddy but others used it to push their own agenda. This is the point in the play where we see the characters inner conflict. Adam tried to exploit the situation for his own personal gain and the University President (Patrick Clear) had political ambitions. The play then turns into a drama about personal relationships and issues that are common among those attending college in the present day. Gabe and his friends did a good job of portraying their confusion and emotion.
During the show, I very much enjoyed Adam Poss’ performance. Adam’s performance made him easy to hate. He didn’t play the victim and was a dominant character to the point of taking advantage of those around him. He used those around him to not only fulfill his need for power and control but to fulfill his relationship needs as well. I was also impressed with the work of Christopher Imbrosciano who plays Jay, a handicapped gay man. This character stood out for me because his role showed how people discriminate without realizing their actions. Jay and Gabe were close friends but Jay also had deeper feelings for Gabe. When Jay admits to Gabe his feelings, Gabe’s is less than heartfelt. The audience is aware that Jay wants more from Gabe and feels his devastation and loneliness when he is rejected. This brings to the forefront how deep discrimination can go, even within a group that finds themselves rejected by authorities, such as the school president and other students.
The set was minimal but the lighting brought the play to life. When the scene switched to a campus party the disco ball came over the audience lighting up the whole theater instead of confining itself to just the stage. One table was used in the first couple of scenes, which prevented the audience from being distracted and kept the focus on the actors and their issues.
Although the play seems centered around issues of homosexuality it was really about relationships and how people deal with depression and discrimination. In reality everyone is discriminated against in some way. Teddy did not kill himself because he was gay as some might think but because he was lonely and did not have any friends. This is a common concern on college campuses, especially with the addition of technology, such as cell phones, facebook and twitter. Technology was initially intended to bring people together but we see the opposite affect in ‘Teddy Ferrara.’ Teddy uses webcams to broadcast himself to the world and this is also his downfall when someone else broadcasts his actions unbeknown to him.
This is a serious play meant for a specific audience. It is targeted to a younger generation, those whose phones are an extension of themselves. The doesn’t really end and leaves the audience to come to into own conclusion. The play is a must see for anyone who has felt the sting of discrimination.