After a sold-out and award winning run at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where it was called “one of the Top 5 LGBTQ shows to see” by Huffington Post, Charles Gershman’s The Waiting Game arrives in choreographic splendor at 59E59 Theaters courtesy of Snowy Owl.
Sam’s in a coma. Paolo’s doing his best. When Geoff reveals a secret, reality and fantasy blur. This NYC premiere from critically acclaimed Snowy Owl follows a sold-out, award winning run in the Edinburgh Fringe (Best Overseas Play, Derek Awards) and explores relationships in the digital age.
Directed by Nathan Wright, The Waiting Room begins performances on Wednesday, February 6 for a limited engagement through Sunday, February 23. The cast features Joshua Bouchard (Lincoln Center/New York City Opera’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon); Julian Joseph (CBS’s “Bluebloods“); Ibsen Santos (Group.BR’s Inside The Wild Heart); and Marc Sinoway (LOGO’s “Hunting Season“).
Frontmezzjunkies was lucky enough to have a conversation with the lead actor, Marc Sinoway who tackles the complex and dynamic Paolo, and finds out what makes the actor and these other young men tick as they ping pong back and forth, in and out, with one another, as they grapple with drugs, sex, and a traumatic event.
Ross: It’s been a long time since I sat across the room and watch you inhabit a character like you did on “Hunting Season“, so it is was great to see you on stage at 59E59 Theaters in Snowy Owl‘s The Waiting Game by Charles Gershman. The play was originally staged here for a few performances during their East to Edinburgh Festival in July 2017, before transferring to a well-received run in Scotland at the Edinburgh Fringe. How did you come to be a part of this compelling production?
Marc: Thank you! I have been a part of this process since very early on. I initially met Charlie socially through my partner Nathan Wright (who actually directed The Waiting Game). I believe Charlie was familiar with my work on “Hunting Season” and in March of 2015 he just asked me to read a couple of scenes of The Waiting Game at an intimate event uptown called “Play with Your Dinner” (hosted/curated by Beth Lincks a.k.a. Arlene Hutton). I think at that time, The Waiting Game only consisted of the 2 scenes I read at this dinner. I liked it instantly.
In August of 2015 we did an informal reading of the full play. I actually read Geoff (played now by Joshua Bouchard) at that reading.
In June of 2016, Charlie’s play was entered in Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, and I played Paolo in the staged reading and I was nominated for “Outstanding Actor in a Staged Reading.” I did not win, but the recognition was really nice at that time, because I had actually thought I was done with acting…
In 2017 Charlie submitted his play to the Edinburgh Fringe and offered me the role of Paolo. The rest is history as they say…
Ross: What was your initial reaction to the play? And what drew you to the part?
Marc: Now this is an easy one thanks to Gmail’s search function. My initial not-so-articulate reaction to a very early 2015 draft of The Waiting Game (as written in an email to Charlie) was, “It’s great. Super interesting. Suspenseful. Sad. Intense. Look forward to reading more.”
I was drawn to the play for a number of reasons. I find loss and the way people deal with it particularly compelling. I also really like plays that are darker and deal with gay issues. I understand the psychology of Paolo. He’s devastated by the loss of his partner… trying to go through the motions of life and move on, busying himself with a new, younger man, but also doing anything he can to stay connected to his comatose husband… experimenting with the drugs Sam used to use, trying to connect with Sam’s boyfriend by sharing stories about the man we both knew, and even trying to connect physically. It’s all about wanting to feel close to Sam. I also super identify with Tyler… the younger guy in a fucked up relationship, inexperienced, looks up to Paolo, deals with Paolo’s baggage because he’s in love and so wants it to work. Ha. Definitely been there.
As I got more familiar with the play and developed, I found myself drawn to the mystery of it, and the way the information unfolds. The play really requires one to pay attention. I also love work that leaves possibility for magic and the unexplainable. Is Paolo making contact with Sam, even though Sam is in a coma? I mean why not? Maybe there are ways of connecting beyond our limited human understanding.
Ross: All those characters are so real, even when they are acting on their illogical impulses in ways that make us cringe, especially Tyler (Julian Joseph). What would you like to say to the young men like Tyler, especially in regards to a man like Paolo?
Marc: First of all I am so glad you noticed that the characters are acting on illogical impulses. In preparing a role an actor often feels the need to logically understand why his character does or says x. However in real life we often do not have answers to these question. We just respond the best we can in each moment. We really tried to bring the uncertainty of real life to our work in The Waiting Game. As humans we often do and say things that aren’t in line with what we really want.
Speaking as someone who has been a Tyler (a 20’s man with an older boyfriend), I don’t think it would matter what anyone says to Tyler. Tyler will keep going back and carrying on his pattern with his Paolo until HE is done with it. Nothing anyone says will make much of a difference until that point.
I think the only real advice I would give a Tyler this: “If you suspect a partner is using a lot of drugs, things will often not add-up, there are probably lies interwoven into the fabric of the relationship, so let that be a red flag.”
Ross: Is there anything you would want to teach or tell Paulo in the way he is interacting with the others? He seems selfish and indifferent to Tyler at points, and his impulsive behavior hurts the young man. And what are your thoughts about what this play is trying to tell us about love in and around gay partnership/marriage?
Marc: These are difficult questions to answer. I am playing Paulo so I identify with him, his plight if you will, ha, and I find myself becoming defensive of him. I think Paolo can come off as callous, but when it comes down to it he is broken, devastated over the loss of his partner. He is in a daze, lost… trying to just make it through.
I don’t think Paolo is ever indifferent to Tyler, I just don’t think he is capable of showing Tyler how much he needs Tyler ( of course, until the end of the play). Also, because I am defensive of Paolo, I will defend… In any relationship, the hurt goes both ways. Tyler also hurts Paolo. Paolo tries to ask Tyler about the possibility of Sam’s soul being with us. Tyler pretty much laughs in Paolo’s face… there are a few moments like that where Paolo tries to connect with Tyler and is rebuffed.
Ross: You’re so right. Paolo is probably the most lost soul in the play. Grieving lose in a complex structure that is hard to comprehend.
Marc: It is clear to me that Paolo doesn’t really have anyone, he lacks a real support system. So if given the opportunity I’d tell Paolo to seek professional help and and I’d advise him against experimenting with meth. I think therapy would help Paolo through crisis, but I’m not totally sure he’d go.
Ross: As a psychotherapist who deals with recovering addicts a good deal of my time, it was difficult to watch those moments of pure escapism. But very understandable in an emotionally lost kind of way.
Marc: Hmmm. What does The Waiting Game tell us about love in and around gay partnerships marriage? Well the show definitely shows us that relationships can be really fucked up. But I don’t think this is specific to gay relationships. I think all of the themes of the play are relevant to any type of relationship. Yes, there is infidelity, lying, drug-use, violations of trust in spades (see what i did there?), but also there is so much love. Under all of the shit, there is love. More than anything these men are motivated by love.
Ross: Sam (Ibsen Santos) seems to be floating all around that well crafted stage. How is the pong to Paulo’s ping to be taken?
Marc: Well I think Sam’s floating around very much mirrors the way in which Sam floats around in Paulo’s mind and heart. Sam may be in a coma, but his presence is always there for Paolo. Even when Paulo tries to move on, Sam looms.
This is kind of a spoiler, but… I think Sam’s “pong” can be interpreted in many ways. Either Geoff is posing as Sam to get me to sign over conservatorship, or it’s Tyler in order to get me to move on so we can give our relationship a real chance, or it’s the two of them somehow working together, or it’s Sam. I know I as Paolo certainly want to believe that it is Sam.
Ross: What do you think about that possibility?
Marc: Is it possible for us to stay connected and reach one another even if someone is in a coma, or gone? I mean what do I know? I’ve certainly felt connected in ways that defy logic.
Ross: Well said. In terms of styling and direction, the use of space and props is very compelling and almost like choreography. How does it feel to be on that stage with your fellow actors doing that dance of engagement?
Marc: Thank you for that compliment. I love when our show is compared to dance. In Scotland a review called our transitions “balletic.” I mean it feels great to be a part of an ensemble where we are in sync with one another as performers, where we rely on group mind to create key moments of the show.
You know, I don’t want to tell anyone what to take away. What did you take away?
Ross: My review is posting in a day or two What are we to take away from their entanglements? and from the winning card played?
Marc: As far as the winning card played… it happens to be Sam who plays the winning card, which technically means that he and Geoff won the game of euchre. However, the winning card or winner, is much less important to me than the fact that we are playing the card game at all. Together. In the end we are all winners. That final scene in The Waiting Game, of the four of us enjoying ourselves around a deck of cards, is Sam, Geoff, Tyler, Paolo making contact on a higher level, disentangled from all the earthly bullshit that causes us humans so much pain. But that is just what I think.
Produced by Snowy Owl, The Waiting Game begins performances on Wednesday,
February 6 for a limited engagement through Sunday, February 23.
The performance schedule is Tuesday – Saturday at 7:30 PM; and Sunday at 2:30 PM. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison). Single tickets are $25 ($20 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling the 59E59 Box Office on 646-892-7999 or by visiting http://www.59e59.org.
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