The Waiting Game now at 59 E 59 Theater is direct from an award-winning run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as Best Overseas Play. It is very much a Fringe play in that it is quickly paced, intelligent and demands a bit from an audience. When given its due, The Waiting Game is a rewarding and excellent piece of theater.
The Waiting Game explores how we hold on to people and experiences, and how we must proactively act to let them go. The story revolves around Paulo (a terrific Marc Sinoway). Paulo’s husband, Sam, lies in a coma in the hospital, brain dead, but his heart still beating a year after an overdose. Paulo is in a relationship of sorts with Tyler (Julian Joseph in a heartbreaking role). Tyler provides Paulo with companionship and sex while demanding very little in return. Paulo has trouble supplying even the little emotional support Tyler needs.
L-R: Marc Sinoway, Joshua Bouchard in THE WAITING GAME. Photo by Carol Rosegg
Paulo also must deal with Geoff (Joshua Bouchard), who was in a healthy relationship with Sam for at least a year before the overdose. Geoff believes that Sam was ready to leave Paulo and live with him, had the accidental overdose not occurred. Paulo resents the idea of Geoff much more than the reality of Geoff. Geoff entered Paulo and Sam’s marriage as a sex partner, which was acceptable, but Sam and Geoff’s relationship grew, which was outside of the bounds of the agreement. Had Paulo and Sam’s relationship been healthy, the Geoff / Sam relationship would never have grown. As it is, Paulo resents Geoff, but doesn’t deny his importance in Sam’s world.
After waiting for Sam to leave Paulo, now Geoff is waiting for Paulo to let Sam go. Joshua Bouchard does a great job with the role of Geoff, who is sometimes very sympathetic and sometimes not sympathetic at all. On the other hand, Paulo is actively not sympathetic. Self-centered and callous, Paulo has channeled his hurt and confusion into anger and manipulativeness. He forces Tyler and Sam to jump through hoops, while offering very little in return.
The Waiting Game is not an easy play to love, as the pieces don’t fall neatly into place. It suggests emotions and forces the viewer to supply motivation. Why has Paulo retreated into himself? Is the casual drug use a symptom of Paulo’s pain, or was it the cause of Sam’s pain? Why is he such a dick to everyone? Having said that, I did love the show. I found the contradictions honest and raw.
Playwright Charles Gershman has crafted a unique vision at the crossroads of drug use, sex, marriage and HIV status. Nathan Wright has staged it interestingly and pulled out wonderful performances from the actors. It could have used a bit more dialog and a little less distracting stage business, that is where I think the straight transition from the Fringe environment hurts the result. But those are minor nits which are lost in the unique voice The Waiting Game brings.
The Waiting Game | Playwright: Charles Gershman | Director: Nathan Wright | Cast: Joshua Bouchard, Julian Joseph, Ibsen Santos, Marc Sinoway | website