By C. S. Gilbert
'Match," which opened Tuesday at the Red Barn, is the most affecting, moving play I have seen in 20 years of Key West theatergoing and (for the record) more than a decade of being paid to offer an opinion.
Tom Luna, for whom the show is a clear tour de force, is God. His stature as the local guru of a comedic genius has long been established, but he never made me cry before. I came to the show expecting to laugh ... and I did. The first act established him as Tobi, the dancer turned choreographer turned teacher at Julliard, a very amusing stereotype of the artistic gay man. But watch out. Kinsey Six he is not. He is by action and assertion a man who weaves a sociologically valid fabric of sexuality -- shall we come right out and say bisexuality? -- in the 21st and, rather more significantly, the later 20th century.
Into Tobi's calm and, within artistic bounds, ordinary life come Lisa (Amber McDonald Good) and Mike (Brandon Beach), she presumably a doctoral student who says she's doing research for her dissertation, he a cop with a few anger and other issues to resolve. The play is so diabolically crafted as to masquerade as an hilarious comedy in the beginning only to morph, shortly before the end of Act One, into a mystery, an emotional conundrum, a series of epiphanies. The laughs are still there but it's like experiencing Disney's rollercoasters without having to schlep up to Orlando.
McDonald Good and Beach are very, very good in their roles and Luna is flat-out superb. If there is a word beyond superb, fill it in. Key West's premier clown has been burnished into a multi-dimensional actor who will make you laugh, certainly, but who will also make you cry. He is perfectly supported by MacDonald Good and Beach, who are clearly in line to be among the strongest performers of the local Next Generation. Both have challenging roles that could easily be played as ingénue clichés -- but they don't fall into that trap. Perhaps skillful director Joy Hawkins doesn't allow it.
Summation: "Match" is an astonishing show. Never before has a local show earned three Depends for laughs and also earned a Kleenex or two for emotion. We think it's a must-see.
By Mark Howell
It seems to me that great theater propels the audience to a place it would otherwise find it impossible to enter, creating scenes and situations that can only be resolved through shared emotion -- emotion so powerful it must breach any ambiguity inherent in the climax.
So it was at the Red Barn on Monday night when Connie Gilbert and I attended an invited dress rehearsal of "Match" by Stephen Belber. Amber McDonald Good is deeply touching as the unhappy but well-meaning young woman who arrives with her detective husband, an appropriately scary Brandon Beach (upon whom, ultimately, the happiness of the world will depend), on a visit to the uptown apartment of an elderly, retired gay dancer, Tom Luna, who will scale the very heights and plumb the very depths as demanded by Aristotle and as directed by Joy Hawkins.
The sobbing of the audience was triumphantly audible at the close of play. Me, I couldn't get beyond the word "gran'pa" before breaking down at the catharsis.
Yes. Unexpectedly but actually, the greatest evening of theater I have spent in more than 20 years of theatergoing in Key West.
'Match' runs through April 14 at the Red Barn, 319 Duval St. Box office is at 296-9911 from 1 to 6 p.m. daily.