Home Before Dark

Given the bigotry engendered by pseudo-religious fundamentalists and the sexually insecure, it remains painful for gays and lesbians to be honest about their genetic predispositions and proclivities.

Over the years, some of our greatest playwrights have struggled with these issues both privately and publically, sometimes to great tragic (Angels in America) and comedic (La Cage aux Folles) effect.

Michael McNeill as Dale
Michael McNeill as Dale
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Local playwright and director, Terry Dodd, tackles a particularly difficult moment—coming out to his father—in his latest work, Home Before Dark, now receiving its world premiere at Curious Theatre Company, under the direction of long-time Denver Center Theatre Company favorite, Jamie Horton.

As autobiography, the script is uncompromisingly honest and poignant, baring all the particulars of a young man coping with the challenges of a life on the periphery of mainstream culture; as drama, however, the script squanders a number of opportunities, which would have required concessions to fiction, that could have amplified the dynamics and the catharsis.

Jake Walker as Mark
Jake Walker as Mark
Photo: Michael Ensminger
Mark (Jake Walker) is a student at CU-Boulder and lives in the mountains just to the west of the city. His dad, Dale (Michael McNeill) is a cop. Dale drives up the mountain in a snowstorm to knock on Mark's door in the middle of the night.

The isolation of the scene heightens the stakes of any confrontation, especially because Dale is in uniform, packing the standard firearm issue; though, other than a couple of threats, we never feel the danger that could be here.

(Left to right) Michael McNeill as Dale and Jake Walker as Mark
(L to R) Michael McNeill as Dale
and Jake Walker as Mark
Photo: Michael Ensminger

Dodd's dialogue can be penentrating, for example, when Dale reveals that he is counting on Mark to produce a grandchild, or when Mark discusses his vulnerability to AIDS. At other times, Dale and Mark are straw conveyances for their respective political, social, and spiritual/religious belief systems, expostulating the standard arguments regarding the normality (or, in the case of the dogmatists, abnormality) of homosexual behavior.

Walker and McNeill have a natural rapport that supports their father-son relationship, though there were a few moments on opening night where the timing of the lines and the emotional rhythm of the scene weren't what they will be later in the run.

Director Horton's pacing extracts the most from the script and actors, conveying subtle, yet effective, metaphors, such as the length of time the front door is open, while the cold air engulfs the cabin.

The key to taking this play to the next level is the issue of Dale's health, which has the potential to reverse the playing field and focus on universal spiritual issues, while giving Mark a taste of what his father is experiencing.

The world premiere of Terry Dodd's Home Before Dark runs through February 13th at Curious Theatre Company. 303-623-0524.

Bob Bows


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