Set in the 1950s, the stage comedy Albany Civic Theater has a contemporary resonance

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Bob is married to Millie. Living in the apartment next door in their side-by-side duplex, Jim is married to Nora. But Bob and Jim are in love, just like Millie and Nora. A secret door between the houses — through a closet, naturally — allows real couples to be together behind a facade of hetero-normality.

That’s the premise of “Perfect Arrangement,” a comedy from Atlanta-based playwright and screenwriter Topher Payne that had its off-Broadway premiere in 2015 and is getting its first Capital Area production this month at the Albany Civic Theater. , starting this weekend.

“Perfect layout”

When: Pay-what you will preview, 7:30 p.m. on November 3; continues at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4, 5, 11, 12, 6, 7, and 2 p.m. on Nov. 6, 13, and 20.
Where: Albany Civic Theatre, 235 Second Ave., Albany
Tickets: $20 ($12 students)
information: 518-462-1297 and albanycivictheater.org


The play is set in 1950s Washington, D.C., where Bob works for the State Department and Nora is his secretary. During a cocktail party at the start of the play, their boss, who has carried out anti-communist investigations, announces that his team will widen its field of action. They are now tasked with weeding out others suspected of being suspicious or blackmailed, including ‘sex deviants’, i.e. members of what would become the community LGBTQ, although at the time only the first two initials were generally understood. . Suddenly, Bob and Nora are faced with the prospect of losing their privacy, their livelihood, and perhaps even their freedom.

And it’s all just a comedy.

“I told the actors it was a comedy – until it wasn’t,” said John Quinan, a local theater manager who is directing his third full production for Albany Civic in about 15 years. .

The play opens in the style and tone of a 1950s sitcom, with the characters mentioning the products they use, a nod to early television commercials and sponsor recognition.

“It feels a lot like… ‘I love Lucy’ at first, but as things progress and things get more serious, the feel gets more serious,” Quinan said.

“The play is so well written. There’s humor, there’s drama, and I love how far the characters have learned to not be afraid to be themselves in a controversial political climate. “, said Samantha Miorin, who plays Millie and makes her second ACT appearance, after “The Heiress” in 2019.

Like Miorin, Ryan Palmer, who plays Jim, hadn’t read or seen “Perfect Arrangement” before auditioning. But Palmer, who has starred in about 30 productions on stages across the capital region over the past seven years, saw the word “comedy” in the audition announcement.

“That’s usually all it takes to get me interested,” Palmer said. He makes his debut at Albany Civic, but not for lack of trying before: “It seemed like every time in the past (ACT) had something with a good role for me, I was already engaged in three other things “, did he declare.

As a straight cisgender man who has only played one gay character before, for whom the fact had almost nothing to do with history, Palmer said, “I never had to hide like they do in the play. It’s been a journey of being able to identify with Jim and what the four of them are going through.”

For Quinan and the cast, the challenge was to find the balance between “Perfect Arrangement”‘s frequent humor and its deeper themes. At a time when anti-LGBTQ sentiment manifests itself in laws limiting how young trans athletes can compete, when Florida’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill restricts what teachers can discuss in class and New York’s Republican gubernatorial candidate suggested he would support such a law in the Empire State, “Perfect Arrangement” isn’t just a period piece, Quinan, Miorin and Palmer said.

“The game definitely feels very timely to me,” Quinan said.

Although same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide since 2015 and concerted federal investigations aimed at exposing people of non-heterosexual orientations are long a thing of the past, being open about one’s minority status in terms of sexual orientation or gender identity can still have negative effects. consequences, Miorin said. Additionally, the United States Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade prompted at least one member, Judge Clarence Thomas, to speculate that the decision that underpins the same-sex marriage ruling could also be reconsidered.

“The play made me realize… how privileged so many of us are and (aware) of the struggle they’ve been through. We don’t want to go back there,” Miorin said.

“It’s a serious topic, but if you do it with the lighter tone of a comedy, it’s more relevant,” Palmer said.

“The play doesn’t blow people away with its message,” Quinan said, “but it will still make you think about how far we’ve come in getting the rights and how it now looks like we might be in danger of move back.”

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