Discerning viewers seeking a short but satisfying streaming option might consider “After Forever.” The independently produced series, now available on Amazon, examines love, loss, and dating from the perspective of a 50-something gay man.
“After Forever” revolves around Brian, a handsome, successful Manhattanite played by Kevin Spirtas. The out actor has appeared in everything from B-movies to Broadway musicals, but he’s probably best known for his role as Dr. Craig Wesley on the long-running soap opera “Days of Our Lives.”
“After Forever” is a personal project for Spirtas, who got the idea shortly after turning 50. He teamed up with television writer Michael Slade to produce the series.
In the first of eight episodes, Brian’s life seems perfect. He’s a successful PR exec and happily married to Jason, played by Doogie Howser’s Mitchell Anderson, also an out actor. The couple has a coterie of devoted friends, a great apartment and a healthy love life. Then Jason is diagnosed with stage-four cancer. With death inevitable, he declines radical treatment. When Brian protests his husband’s decision, Jason is firm: “It’s got to be my way.”
Jason’s death gives the show its initial dramatic impetus, but it’s really about what happens afterward. Flash-forward one year, and Brian’s friends believe it’s time for him to move on. Brenda, his black lesbian “work wife,” suggests that he remove reminders of Jason from his desk. “You want me to erase him? No, I can’t. I won’t,” Brian snaps, before admitting she’s right.
At other times, his friends’ influence is more oblique. While out bicycling with the son of two gay friends, Brian bumps into a hunky guy who flirts with him. “That guy is into you,” the boy emphatically informs Brian, who is otherwise oblivious.
There’s another presence looking out for Brian: Jason’s ghost. He acts as a kind-of guardian angel, comforting Brian in his sadness and gently nudging him to confront the future. Jason’s ghost is also a reminder of the presence of the past; just one of many ways that “After Forever” toys with time.
Another technique is flashback, which the show employs liberally. At first, such scenes are disorienting, as they’re no doubt meant to be. However, as Brian works through his grief, these shifts in time become less jarring. The flashbacks often introduce a seemingly trivial object or phrase that returns as a leitmotif, uniting past and present.
The show’s format is another way it tinkers with temporality. The entire first season of “After Forever” consists of eight episodes lasting roughly 11 minutes each. So binge-watching this series doesn’t require an enormous investment of time.
That brevity isn’t a gimmick. What’s remarkable about “After Forever” is how rich and layered the episodes are, despite being so compressed. The effect of shorter episodes amplifies the events that viewers see, such as the way that Jason’s cancer ruthlessly obliterates a loving 15-year relationship in a matter of months.
What eventually happens to Brian? That remains to be seen. As Spirtas told me via email, “It’s always the fans that determine the life of a project. Hopefully, we will touch enough hearts and lives that there would be multiple seasons that allow this story to continue to be told.”
To learn more about “After Forever,” visit www.afterforevertheseries.com.