A father who loves and accepts his gay son is the theme of the new play ‘The Sum of Us.’ ★★★★
In 1994, a young Russell Crowe played the gay son in the movie version of The Sum of Us which was originally staged as a play in New York City in 1990. Now a new version of the play ‘The Sum of Us,’ which has never played in the UK, has just opened at the Above the Stag Theatre in Vauxhall.
Harry (Sephen Connery-Brown) is a forty-something widower raising his twenty-something young son Jeff (Tim McFarland), who happens be gay. Harry is not bothered about his son being gay, he actually encourages Jeff to go out and meet other guys, to enjoy life while you can while you are young. And Harry doesn’t mind when Jeff brings other guys over to their home. Jeff is good-looking and athletic with a very positive look on life, but he says there’s a space in his heart that is empty, a space that could be filled by another man. When he meets someone he likes (Greg – played by Rory Hawkins), he’s immediately smitten. But it’s Harry who interrupts the two young men who are on the couch getting to know each other. Harry says a bit too much about Jeff, and their close father and son relationship makes Greg feel insecure about his own relationship with his father. Meanwhile Harry, after being a widower for a number of years, also starts dating – he feels like it’s time to get out there and meet another woman. And he does. Her name is Joyce (Annabel Pemberton), and her and Harry are getting on like wildfire. But when she learns that he has a gay son, she just can’t accept this. Firstly she’s angry that Harry didn’t tell her when they started dating, secondly she just can’t accept gay people at all. Even after Harry proposes to her, she just doesn’t want to see him anymore. So thus we have a father and a son who both yearn to be with someone yet obstacles get in their way. And as Harry tells Jeff, he is the sum of us, the sum of him and his late wife, and the sum of his grandparents and great-grandparents. Actually, we are all the sum of us, and this is the message of the play.
Above the Stag Theatre really sets the bar high on this one. Their previous shows had names such as ‘Rent Boy: The Musical’ and ‘Bathhouse: The Musical.’ However, they have now produced a play that is serious, heartwarming and very well-acted. The Sum of Us is a story that most gay men may not relate to; who can say that their fathers have whole heartedly accepted their homosexuality. But the play, written by David Stevens, who also wrote the film version and the original play version, successfully combines the son’s and father’s search for love and the close relationship they have with each other. And in the end, the message is that we all want someone to love and someone to love us, no matter whether you are gay or straight.
Connery-Brown is great as Harry, as is McFarland as Jeff. They have a real rapport as father and son, and even resemble each other a bit. Hawkins and Pemberton are fine as the other halves, who may or may not wind up in the men’s lives. The set, down to the details of the1990’s script, cleverly goes from a living room to a park, in this cute theatre that is nice and cozy with a bar to match.
The Sum of Us is playing at Above the Stag Theatre until October 4th. Tickets can be bought here:
Buy tickets now – it’s selling out fast!