Monday, August 14, 2017

Applause! Applause! Review of Jonathan Tolins' Twilight Of The Golds at Studio Theatre Long Island by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Jonathan Tolins' Twilight Of The Golds at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 7 (2017) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Twilight Of The Golds
Written by Jonathan Tolins
Directed by Carol Prisamt
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York 11757
Reviewed 8/6/17

Twilight Of The Golds is a play written by Jonathan Tolins that premiered at the Pasadena Playhouse on January 17, 1993. After a stop at The Kennedy Center and fifteen previews, it opened on Broadway at the Booth Theatre on October 21, 1993, closing on November 14, 1993 after 29 performances. The Golds are an upper-middle-class Jewish family from New York. They perceive themselves as liberals and religiously read The New York Times for fear they will be caught lacking in conversations with their friends. Phyllis (Heidi Jean Weinrich) and Walter (Len DeLorenzo) have two children - David (Alex Rich), who is gay, and Suzanne (Meredith Johnson), who is a buyer for Bloomingdale's. Have their children disappointed them? Sure. They wish David had been straight and feel Suzanne could have been a surgeon. Still, they love them and accept them for who they are even though they are not pleased with some of the choices they have made.  Both David and Suzanne are coming up on the third anniversary of their current relationships. Suzanne, with her husband Rob (Avi Goldstein), and David (with Steven, who we never meet). The family tries to be accepting of David's lifestyle to the extent they can but they still worry about him (given the AIDS crisis) and continue to hold their own opinions regarding homosexuality. When David forces his father to tell him what he really thinks, Walter says, "I think you are sick and if there was a cure, I'd want you to have it." Still, David's father loves him with all his heart, loans him money and shares his love of Opera. David's mom still thinks his being gay is somehow her fault. She says, "If only I didn't take your temperature that way!"

Individual monologues are spoken by each character directly to the audience giving us an opportunity to get to know the perspectives of each. There are no villains in this play. Each has a legitimate viewpoint on a very controversial topic. Suzanne finds herself pregnant and due to advancements in the Human Genome Project and more accurate testing through amniocentesis,  she learns there is a 90% chance her newborn son will be gay (like her brother). Abortion is an option. Rob, her husband, stands by his wife and says he will support whatever decision she makes regarding whether to keep the baby. Suzanne's parents also feel the decision is hers to make and will support her either way. David, on the other hand, is outraged there is even a discussion about the issue. He takes the matter personally and engages in his own Operation Rescue to convince his sister to have the baby. Rob is rightfully upset. He feels the decision should be made privately between himself and his wife and that David should mind his own business. Suzanne is torn. On the one hand, she understands David's perspective. On the other hand, she questions why they should put themselves through the difficulties of having a gay son if they don't have to. 

The playwright conflates gay culture with sexual orientation. No baby comes out "singing and dancing" and there is no guarantee a gay nephew will like opera and have, as David says, "that particular genetic aberration." Gay culture is a sub-culture any person is free to choose as their own. The clothing one wears and the speech patterns adopted usually reflect the degree to which a gay person wants their sexual orientation to be obvious. Phyllis and Walter Gold love their children and are not the kind of parents who would ever disown them for any reason. That is not enough for David, who is spoiled and always likes to get his own way. David buys opera CDs as gifts for his sister and her husband even though he knows they don't like them. This desire of his to want everyone to like what he likes has also gotten him into trouble with his partner. David can't accept his loving parents for who they are and respect their differing viewpoints nor can he respect the ultimate decision his sister makes about whether to have the baby unless her decision agrees with his. One day, parents may use genetic testing not only to screen for diseases but to also select various characteristics they may want for their children - such as a preferred eye color, height, etc. When that is possible, in my opinion, the decision should be made by the parents - not the government, not an ethics panel, not their doctors, and certainly not by a majority vote of the community. The result of David's meddling results in tragedy for the Gold family.

Twilight Of The Golds is a relevant and thought-provoking play. The actors in this production are all highly professional and extremely talented. The writing keeps the play moving at a good pace. You will be engaged and interested in the discussions that take place. Is it true, as Rob says, that "knowledge is neutral and it's what bad people do with the information that matters." And while David says to Suzanne, "you're rubbing me out," Suzanne argues back, "don't put the fate of the world on my shoulders. I couldn't finish pre-med and you want me to change the world." Walter is very philosophical about life commenting that while your children may disappoint you, "you find a way to love them even with all the crap." You may also identify with Walter's observation that "you have no idea how your heart breaks when the world doesn't meet your expectations." Suzanne said to David, "don't play the martyr - you know we love you." But in the end, David makes a decision that destroys the family and devastates his mother. You must see this play after which you will, no doubt, have many opinions and feelings you may want to share with others over dinner.

I highly recommend Twilight Of The Golds at Studio Theatre Long Island. Tickets cost $25.00 and can be purchased by visiting their website at The show runs through August 20, 2017. For more information, call 1-631-226-8400. 

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