Given that “Theater District” was written by Richard Kramer, whose credits include “thirty-something” and “My So-Called Life,” it’s no surprise that the story involves a teenager trying to navigate life among a colorful, if somewhat dysfunctional, cast of characters.
In this Allens Lane Arts Center drama, soon-to-be-16 Wesley moves in with his rather-distant father Kenny and his boyfriend George.
Out director Travis Whitaker said he was intrigued by the play’s “sense of family.”
“As a 15-year-old, [it’s about] the importance of learning acceptance and knowing how to show that acceptance and finding the love that he needs to grow,” Whitaker said of Wesley’s journey.
But Whitaker added that while the story initially centers around Wesley, it ends up being almost equally about George, whose warmth and sophistication win over Wesley with the two forming a strong familial bond.
“If I had to name a main character, it would be George, even though Wesley is in the majority of the show,” the director said. “It’s the relationship that George has with Kenny, his partner, Wesley and Lola, who is Kenny’s ex-wife. There’s a lot of interplay between those four characters and then there are three additional characters that are all tied into George’s life.”
Out actor Michael McGeehan, who plays George, said his character is “definitely a caretaker.”
“That has been first and foremost in his life for a long time,” McGeehan said. “He’s been with Kenny for 10 years and he’s a caretaker for him. When Kenny’s son came into the picture, it extended to Wesley. One of the things you notice immediately is the difference in the way he communicates with Wesley as opposed to the way his father and mother do it. It’s a drastic observation you make immediately. He is much more comfortable with George. There’s a camaraderie and bantering between Wesley and George that is at times touching and comical, as opposed to when he talks to his father, which is more closed and tense.”
The actor added he’s happy to be part of a production that shows gay couples in a realistic family environment.
“There’s so much negativity in the news about two gay people, be it men or women, raising children,” he said. “Even from a personal experience for me, I raised my niece from age 14-21. Hopefully, the audiences come away from this show thinking, here’s a shot of a family where there is a gay couple raising a teenage son and a sense of the closeness that develops between the gay partner of this parenting team.”
Whitaker sees the message behind “Theater District” in a broader sense, saying it’s about “recognizing the moment in life when things change.”
“It may be something catastrophic or it may be something very minor,” he said. “There’s that one thing that sets off a chain reaction and opens your eyes up to a different way of life and a different way that you have to live. So I hope that people will go away with that recognition or a sense of knowing that that change is out there and that you have to find a way to accept it.”
“Theater District” runs through Feb. 6 at Allens Lane Arts Center, 601 W. Allens Lane. For more information, see www.allenslane.org or call (215) 248-0546.