Despite the legally mandated nudity, there’s no happily-ever-after in Afterglow | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Despite the legally mandated nudity, there’s no happily-ever-after in Afterglow

"No one ever wrote a fairy tale about polyamory!"

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Inclusion of full and frequent nudity is so vital to the gay throuple drama Afterglow that, according to playwright S. Asher Gelman, a production's failure to include it "will result in legal action." In the case of Pride Films & Plays's current staging, Gelman should feel comfortable putting that cease and desist letter back in his drawer. Be it silently bathing in the background, laying on a massage table, or sitting around a bed postcoital, director David Zak's handsome cast spends almost as much time onstage stripped down to their skivvies as not. From the tonal self-seriousness of Gelman's flimsy relationship- study dialogue, though, I don't know if he'd call them nude—rather, they're the far-more-dramatic bare.

Husbands Alex (Jacob Barnes) and Josh (Rich Holton), both thirtysomething New Yorkers, invite Darius (Jesse James Montoya), a younger single guy getting his footing in the city, into their open relationship for friendship and—as much as it exists—platonic sex. Predictably, the couple's ground rules are broken, romantic feelings present complications, and, with straight faces, the men yell cringy lines like "No one wrote a fairy tale about polyamory!" and "You know why there's no Pretty Woman II?" at one another as if they were devastating truths penned by Tennessee Williams.

Afterglow's efforts to have it both ways—like in a peculiar, ceremonious opening movement/strip number set to a cheesy R&B song—somehow manages to be less lascivious yet more uncomfortable than the unambiguous, sex-positive boy-lesque shows it aims to elevate itself from.   v

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