Wednesday, Jan 08 2014 02:46 PM

Ghosts of relationships past in 'Book of Andy'

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    By Photo courtesy of Miguel Torres

    Miguel Torres, left, and Michael Pawloski in a scene from "The Book of Andy," which opens Friday at The Empty Space.

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BY STEFANI DIAS Californian assistant lifestyles editor sdias@bakersfield.com

Although classic themes still resonate, modern theater is driven in part by the times in which it is created. With that in mind, playwright Michael Mejia brings "The Book of Andy" to The Empty Space on Friday.

The show offers a look at modern dating through the eyes of Andy (Miguel Torres), who, after turning down a marriage proposal from his longtime boyfriend, revisits his past relationships by looking up ex-boyfriends.

Related Info

'The Book of Andy'

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday (also runs Jan. 16 and 17)

Where: The Empty Space, 706 Oak St.

Admission: $15; $10 students and seniors

Information: 327-7529 or esonline.org

"It's a comedy," Mejia said. "I don't know if you can say this in a newspaper, but it's bitchy. It comes from a place of truth and experience that anybody gay or straight goes through."

Although there are common themes, Mejia wanted to bring a unique perspective to the play, his fifth full-length script.

"I was writing this when I was in grad school for my class," said the New York University graduate. "I wanted to make something that is an all-male cast, all gay men, with no characters being the same. I also wanted to look at my own personal relationships, do a little self-examination."

Although he used his life as a jumping-off point for the show, it has become its own tale through several rewrites. So no real-life exes need worry.

"No, I don't name names."

But he does address current issues facing gays, in light of the legalization of same-sex marriage in California last June.

"I wanted it to be about today. We've dealt with coming out and the AIDS crisis. Now we're dealing with marriage and legitimacy and technology and just living in the identities that we've created for ourselves."

The show's lead actor agrees.

"It's (the show) fun, funny, witty yet rooted in a few issues not very many people want to discuss much less attack," Torres wrote in an email. "The issues of promiscuity, loyalty, with gay marriage legal now as a gay man, what do I do? Do I have bridesmaids? ... Does my dad give me away? Will it be taken seriously? Can I take it seriously? It's overwhelming to have something that you've been denied for so long."

Mejia said the show also addresses a divide that new freedoms and technology have wrought.

"There is a disconnect in the gay community now. There is the right to get married but there is more opportunity for promiscuity and anonymity."

The playwright cites a scene in the show, a brief dream sequence in which Andy considers joining a dating site.

"One of the lines that sticks out. ... Our community likes to think we're progressive but we're running around in the dark. We've just made it easier for ourselves."

Torres said the show has something for everyone, but especially encourages gay men to see one of the four performances, running through Jan. 18.

"If you are a gay man, I invite you to see this show: There's something about being able to see yourself onstage in an empathetic, honest way that is justifying. Rather than only being seen as some caricature, come see us represent you honestly as well."

Mejia also looks forward to what he as the creator can take from the performance of his work.

"The audience reaction informs the writer so much about what happens next, helping the next form that this play takes, which is really exciting."

That enthusiasm also stems from kicking off the theater's 2014 season.

"We're just really excited to be part of this season. 'Next to Normal' and 'Into the Woods' and 'Picnic,' the classics. ... It's exciting to say we're opening their 12th season."

 

 

 

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