Time travel can be tricky business, and at Diversionary Theatre, which is staging Alexi Kaye Campbell’s The Pride, it’s trickier still. Francis Gercke and Brian Mackey play gay lovers in both 1958 and 2008. Each is named Philip and Oliver, but the Philip and Oliver of 1958 are not the same characters as the Philip and Oliver of 2008. Still with me? Jessica John is Sylvia, Philip’s melancholy wife in ’58 and Oliver’s straight gal pal in 2008.
Directed by Glenn Paris, artistic director at ion theatre, The Pride puts under the microscope the complexity of gay attraction and relationships. Half a century ago, closets were full and feelings were suppressed not only by self-recrimination but, as shown in a harrowing Act 2 scene, by institutionalized aversion therapy. Philip and his wife’s boss, Oliver, are drawn together then rent asunder as much as by the times as by their fears. The 2008 characters called Philip and Oliver are undone by one’s promiscuity and each lover’s insecurities.
Consequently, the 1958 scenes hold greater emotional and psychological heft, and Gercke, Mackey and especially John seem to dig deeper in them. The Act 1 closer, set in ’58, conveys The Pride’s darkness and desperation, which seem to waft in and out of the contemporary sequences.
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.