Christopher Shinn attempts to highlight the issues surrounding the stereotypes and the attention, or lack thereof, to the queer student body of the modern day, but strays away from the point by focusing an excessive amount of the play on sex. The play grew on me when it became less about sex and more about the bigger picture of the real issue of bullying of queer students. Privacy, suicide, and relationships all add to “Teddy Ferrara” being an overwhelming play about many important matters.
This play takes place on the campus of a large university as Gabe (Liam Benzvi) enters into his senior year of college. Gabe has just started dating a new guy, Drew (Adam Poss), who is the editor of the school’s paper. Gabe is also the leader of the Queer Student Group (Queer being the term taken straight from the script) and as the play opens, he is holding the first meeting where meets freshman, Teddy Ferrara, (Ryan Heindl).Heindl impressively tapped into the anti-social persona of Teddy, which included many awkward pauses, unnecessary questions and a stiff body.
Behind closed doors, Ferrara is a webcam superstar, performing live masturbations and sexual talk with his viewers. Ferrara finds outs his straight roommate is recording him on dates and posting it online. Such an act seems only writable fiction but “Teddy Ferrara” is inspired by real events surrounding the suicide of college student Tyler Clementi in 2010 after Clementi found his roommate posting videos of him with other men.
“Teddy Ferrara” gives an open window into the scandalous lives of the queer students, mentioning the bathroom by the library where queer students are infamous for hook ups and focusing on finding one of the characters a sexual partner throughout the entire play, but where is the line drawn?
An interesting choice of a thrust stage, where the audience surrounds three sides of the stage, made it very in your face; both metaphorically and literally. There were many times throughout the play where it could’ve cut to black out a moment or two sooner; the stripping down to nothing but undergarments was often times uncomfortable. I felt as though I wasn’t allowed to feel afflicted by the intimate moments because disliking such moments would make me homophobic. I considered if it was a straight couple would I feel the same way and truthfully it wouldn’t make a difference.
As far as the acting goes I was impressed with the actors taking on such an intense story line and the large problems within It. I was especially intrigued by Adam Poss’s performance. He plays Drew, who is a strong man but lets his guard down about being hurt and makes himself a temporary relatable character. I went on a rollercoaster with this character, from liking him one scene to disagreeing completely in the next. Gabe’s best friend, Tim (Josh Salt) took on the real life question of can a straight person be friends with a gay person without also being a closeted gay man. Salt played a college senior searching for chicks even while he has a long-term girlfriend and also shows signs of being gay.
When the treatment of the queer student body is brought to the attention of the University President (Patrick Clear), he holds a meeting with the community leaders on campus, including a handicapped gay student, a transgender, an instructor and Gabe. The President repeatedly sticks his foot in his mouth with inappropriate terminology and what he calls “jokes.” Some of the comedy in the play was hard for me to understand and was made for a slightly older audience.
It was refreshing to see a play where audio wasn’t a factor and the actors could use their projection to get their words out. The beginning of the second act was unclear as the actors sporadically came out and casually strolled around stage and then abruptly started speaking. The second act was faster paced, which was a nice contrast to the upset in the closing of the first act.
“Teddy Ferrara” packed in many true conflicts of the modern day from technology, to bullying, to simply applying yourself more in school. Despite the inappropriate aspects of the play I enjoyed watching a contemporary play about issues I personally have a lot of interest in. “Teddy Ferrara” runs through March 3 at The Goodman Theatre and with the warnings of language and inappropriateness I suggest seeing it for yourself.