A 90-Minute Drama You’ll Never Forget, as You Linger in “Afterglow”

Written by | Entertainment

The cast of "Afterglow"

What keeps Afterglow burning? Yes, it’s a one-act play with sex as a key plot point. But audiences seem more riveted by its ideas than its nudity.

It’s an odd coincidence that Afterglow — the little play that could — is still chugging along a year after its quiet debut. It’s even moreso that this intimate drama, which could be considered a finger on the pulse of how today’s gay men grapple with open relationships — is playing right down the street from that other snapshot in time — The Boys in the Band, with its blockbuster cast, million-dollar budget and half century of history.

Perhaps playwright and Director S. Asher Gelman’s text taps into the zeitgeist in the same way that Boys in the Band first showed audiences what gay men could really be like when the straights weren’t looking. Maybe it’s the all-too-familiar tale many gay men have heard over Sunday brunch: “We hooked up with this guy a few weeks ago, and now my partner seems to be getting more and more infatuated with him. I don’t know whether to embrace the situation, be jealous, reclaim him or relax and just find out whether he wants us as much as he wants that.

Afterglow may be a 90-minute one act play, but what it illustrates cuts to the bone for contemporary gay audiences — and as it turns out, many heterosexuals are able to identify with one or more of the characters as well.

Joe Chisholm and Brandon Haagenson in "Afterglow"

What happens to a couple when a third materializes? That’s the central question in “Afterglow,” still packing audiences at the Davenport Theatre.

The show has an ending reminscent of The Sopranos’ 2007 series conclusion. It’s satisfying, but more for the questions asked than the answers provided.

For now, all the Afterglow actors are actually gay men playing gay men. And each one says that — unlike walking in to perform a role in anything from Greek tragedy to Shakespeare or David Mamet — the themes of Afterglow continue to flicker in their minds, too.

The cast agreed to spend a few minutes discussing the show, their audiences and how it feels to be nude night after night before crowds of strangers. They wondered aloud about what constitutes fidelity; and how, without the same roadmap heterosexuals have, gay men are tasked with creating a rulebook that will work for them.

And… maybe most interesting of all is that, in a craft where actors often struggle to get into the heads of their characters, these characters have slowly crept into the minds of the men playing them.

Here’s what Brandon Haagenson, David Merten and Joe Chisholm shared.

Last modified: July 23, 2019