A hotel room in Boston. Blue wall above the bed receding left and right, three ducks flying in the middle. A man tells us this is the year of drugs and good sex, the 70s, while a much younger man appears from behind us, like a memory, staring strangely and smiling. If this sounds sparse, a little cliched and ghostly it’s because it is: 46 Beacon is light-weight, but brilliantly light.
The much younger Alan has been brought here to screw by touring British actor Robert. For what is essentially an extended seduction (he only gets young Alan into bed 50 minutes in) we are never bored. Alan is still in the closet and suppression of the inevitable creates an excellent tension and Alan’s (Oliver Coopersmith) surreal yet natural awkwardness, pitted against Robert’s clipped Britishness, creates a ghostly air, colourful and taught. Director Alexander Lass has created the perfect understatement.
‘I want audiences to come away with a sense of how far gay rights have come’ says Rosenfield in an interview, ‘so much of gay life was hidden for so long’. This secrecy plus a disciplined acceptance of limitations is the play’s strength. We watch the mechanics of a young man ‘coming out’, riddled with one liners but always treading carefully between biography, humour, awareness and skill. It’s a perfect understatement.
But at times this slips into a seminar. ‘How did they come up with rimming?’ asks a doe eyed Alan, sipping yet another gin. Robert, slightly uneasy of the boy’s age, still becomes teacher and psychiatrist and we feel like we’re dissecting a frog. But the play’s self-awareness ‘Yes dad!’ is again a testament to Lass’s quiet mastery, and as each time we fear a drop into the self-righteous or the dull, the play is lifted by it’s clever timing. With 20 minutes to go, like an exhaled breath we finally hear Robert’s story.
The play’s message is integrity, ‘be true to thine self’ and this is satisfying enough. But as the cheesy rock ballad from the beginning drips in again, as Robert and Alan address us like students under dimming lights, some of Rosenfield’s lesser lines ring out and we feel it all could have been bit…well bigger. Not once does the play try to reach a grander narrative or context outside of the room and the lives of its occupants. We do not come away thinking of Gay Rights, or any external political pressure or prophetic come down of the hedonistic 70s.
But for what it is, what is on the stage, it’s good. Very good