Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bonding & Intimacy in Gay-Straight Friendships

Above is the trailer for the play, "Terra Haute."

Have you wondered if it is possible for a gay man to have a platonic, yet intimate, relationship with a straight man?

I think this is one of the central, though no means, only questions, raised in gay writer Edmund White's new--and perhaps, most successful--play, "Terra Haute." Loosely based on another equally well-known gay writer's work, Gore Vidal, In a series of extended essays, Vidal documents his emotionally charged correspondence with Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Vidal, however, denies that he was ever remotely attracted to McVeigh.

Similarly, but not exactly, "Terra Haute" centers around the relationship between an aging, financially comfortable, bisexual journalist and a young, poor, masculine, straight terrorist awaiting execution. What happens when two correspondents, after developing a paper-only relationship, finally meets and sees each other in the true light serves as the conflict of this play.

The drama pivots on the theme of "different types of loneliness," to quote White himself. Like many of his earlier novels such as the highly celebrated, coming-of-age tale, "A Boy's Own Story" and "The Married Man," this play explores "distances in male relationships ... created by differences in age, sexuality or expectations," to quote a New York Times article. White explains also: “I’d hope that thinking about them in terms of their intimacy can raise questions about how they relate to the world,” he said.

So is "Terra Haute" a gay play? Not so, says the playwright. For ultimately this is a play about the humanity of even the most cold or menacing people. The sexuality in the play is simply a vehicle to convey the humanity, the commonality that binds men and women, old and young, children and adults--all of us in this iridescent world.

In that respect, for me, the last two blog entries, including this one, speak to the same undercurrents; We must search for the inner war that often breaks out within us. That war rages on, incessantly, and only we, as individuals, can harness its energies for a greater good.

No comments: