Following positive response to a reading of Adam & Steve and the Empty Sea at the Youth Summit in Ogden earlier in 2012, this original play by Matthew Greene premieres Jan. 31 at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. “People seemed to really respond to the story and the characters,” said Logan Tarantino, who plays the gay character Steve. “Knowing that gay people approve of it has been really important to me.”
Produced by Plan-B Theatre Company, the two-man show stars Tarantino and Topher Rasmussen, and is directed by Jason Bowcutt. Set in California, on the back of Proposition 8, the story describes a friendship since childhood that’s on the verge of breaking as each man struggles with his identity and place in the world. Independently, they are very different people, but together their bond is depolarized. “It’s a coming of age story with two protagonists, two best friends who learn more about each other and about how the world works as they grow apart in some ways and closer together in other ways,” said Rasmussen.
Plan-B’s Producing Director Jerry Rapier added, “Our country seems more polarized than it has at any other point in my lifetime. So I instantly connected with Matthew Greene’s play because the characters understand something I’ve just recently figured out: the real victories lie in the middle ground, in compromise, in what comes from not just listening but actually hearing what’s being said to you from a point of view you may not agree with.”
Introduced in nonconsecutive order spanning a decade, you will get to watch two boys grow into adulthood. While Steve is popular in school, a good student and a jock, Adam on the other hand is a devout Mormon and a bit of an “outcast.” But Steve holds on to a secret for fear of losing his place in the high school hierarchy. “My character is the perfect ‘straight’ student. He’s a track star, and all of his friends like him because of whom they think he is,” said Tarantino.
When Steve decides to come out to his best friend Adam, hard questions about faith, beliefs, teachings and friendship come to the forefront. “Adam struggles with determining where truths can be found. He has this firm belief in the [LDS] Church because it was instilled in him,” said Rasmussen. “As a kid, talking to Steve at a very young age, it really shows how his development works and why as an adult he is so stubborn and hypocritical. He has a lot of guilt which I think is common in most very religious people, and he will willingly sin, what he believes are sins, but he will find a way to justify it so it’s not really sinful. Then later he will show remorse or guilt over it.”
There’s a disconnection between them that they are trying to fix, added Tarantino.
Adam & Steve is not stereotypical or melodramatic. I feel like it’s a refreshing take on a gay high school kid, said Tarantino. And by nearly imperceptible modulation, the Empty Sea is a “cool” metaphor.
While this is Tarantino’s first professional performance, he has previously worked with Rasmussen and Bowcutt in the stage reading of Dustin Lance Black’s 8 earlier in 2012.
“I started doing theater as a junior in high school. I used to play basketball,” said Tarantino. “But sports became too political.”
When he first started doing theater, Tarantino said he felt like he had no self-confidence, but his teacher saw something in him as an actor. He eventually became a sterling scholar of the theater department. He is currently in the actor training program at the University of Utah.
Rasmussen, who gave a stunningly poignant performance as a gay Mormon in Plan-B’s Borderlands last season, attributes his building career to Rapier. “He’s been such a huge part of helping me get to where I am as an artist. He’s been an ally of mine for years. He’s one of the smartest and … like sappiest, but most caring persons. He has allowed many to have these opportunities and to be a part of something relevant and current, and I feel like it’s important to express these ideas about the world. It’s been important in my growth as a member of society. He’s made me feel safe and comfortable as an actor, and he’s always had this faith in my abilities that sometimes I felt I didn’t.”
Adam & Steve runs Jan. 31 through Feb. 10, in the Studio Theatre, Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. Broadway. Tickets $20, 801-355-ARTS or arttix.org.