In Beautiful Thing, currently being produced by Nicu’s Spoon Theatre Company, director Michelle Kuchuk accomplishes a charming revival of this British classic written by Jonathan Harvey and originally staged in 1993, with a later release as a screen adaptation by Channel 4 Films in 1996.
Instantly transplanted into the mid- eighties slums of South London, we meet Jamie (Trip Langley), an awkward teen who hates playing ball, Sandra – Jamie’s single mom (Julie Campbell), her boyfriend Tony (Tim Romero and Leah (Rebecca Lee Lerman), their eccentric sassy teen neighbor who has been expelled from school, does drugs and is obsessed with Mama Cass. She fancies herself an up-and-coming music star and has a bit of a crush on Ste (Michael Abourizk), who lives next door to Jamie and, unlike him, loves sports and is tall and handsome.
Life struggles are a norm in their neighborhood, but Ste has it the hardest: his father is a drunk who beats him. When things go really bad one evening, Ste hurls out of his father’s shack with a fat lip and Sandra takes him under her wing – and into her house, where there’s no other bed than Jamie’s, so the boys have to ‘top-and-tail’ for the night. While Jamie is propped on his pillow reading a magazine and Ste devours Sandra’s salad asking shyly “Will your Mom mind if I leave out the beet?” something clicks. And although the boys don’t fully understand what draws them together, they find each other in Jamie’s bed again the next night. Their rendezvous continue on and off, bringing comfort and joy as Jamie rubs Ste’s scrapes and bruises with lavender cream and as they read together and giggle happily. As they slowly but surely discover their identities and realize who they are, anxieties enter their happy fairyland. “Do you think I’m queer?” Ste asks Jamie nervously. “Don’t matter what I think,” Jamie answers before he turns off the light. He’s right – people are who they are.
But neighbors and families aren’t blind and deaf, and the boy’s peculiar habit of overnight get-togethers gets noticed. Leah makes
acomment she may spill the beans if the boys won’t take her along with them to the park. Ste freaks out – he is sure his father will kill him. Yet, love is stronger than fear and the boys find each other in Jamie’s bedroom again, planning their first outing together. But things go awry and someone tells Sandra her son was at Gloster, a pub known as the town’s gay hangout. Why did you go there?” Sandra demands as she wakes Jamie up, and they have a heated conversation that leaves her in tears. She will not hate her son for being who he is, but she is not happy about it either.
The play brings forth the beauty and magic of a boy-meets-boy romance as the audience learns to love, grieve and be anxious through their eyes. Will the boys be able to embrace their love openly? Will Ste’s psychotic father beat him to death? Will the boys stay together on the uneasy path Mother Nature has chosen for them? We can only guess. And wish them the best of luck in this stern unforgiving world they are coming of age in. But for now they are happy, dancing with each other on their next night out at Gloster, taking life in stride one day at a time.
~~~Beautiful Thing Written by Jonathan Harvey Directed by Michelle Kuchuk July 7 - July 25, 2010 The Spoon Theater 38 West 38th Street, 5th Floor Tickets are $18 and are now available online Running Time: 2 Hours with Intermission