Ky’s Review: PinnWorth Highlights Strong Gay Characters in Their Production of LOVE!VALOUR!COMPASSION!

Love Valour Compassion - PinnWorth Productions - The Kelsey Theatre
‘Love! Valor! Compassion!’ choreographer Jody Person rehearses with cast members Jonathan Polanco (Hamilton), Williams Mercado (Hightstown), Chris Arena (Ewing), Mark Applegate (Hamilton) and Lynn Baskin (Lambertville).

Gay people are just as normal as every other person in this world. They are simply ordinary people.

Crazy, right? Well, that “gay people are normal people” message is the message that PinnWorth Production’s Love! Valour! Compassion! so excellently displayed this past weekend in The Kelsey Theatre at Mercer County Community College.

I had the privilege of seeing this production (written by the brilliant Terrence McNally) on opening night this past weekend, and it was really worth every penny. The story is so simple, yet so emotionally complex. As a result, you find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat as you follow eight men (who are all gay) gather together on three occasions at a summer home owned by a Broadway dancer (played by my doppelganger and the ALWAYS amazing Lynn Baskin) and his blind life partner (played by my partner-in-crime Mark Applegate).

Even though the story features eight homosexual men, the story itself doesn’t focus itself solely on gay orientation. It spends its time focusing on love, friendship, aspirations, growing old, loss of a loved one, anger, and multiple other situations that any person, straight or gay, could find themselves in at any point in their lives.

The show was directed by Lou J. Stalsworth, a wonderful man whom I had the pleasure of working with last year on A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Lou, as always, assembled an excellent set of actors to bring these fascinating characters to life.

Lynn Baskin gives a powerful and emotionally charged performance as Gregory, the choreographer that I spoke of earlier. His character is so fun to watch because (as always) Lynn found a way to clearly show both the successful and happy side of Gregory, and the darker side of Gregory that struggles with a lack of confidence and trust.

Mark Applegate equals Lynn’s performance with a six-pack of steel by successfully portraying a character who is blind physically, yet wide-eyed and eager mentally.

Jon Polanco. Oh my, oh my. I got to perform alongside Jon in Forum, and watching him in that show every night, I figured that Hysterium was THE perfect role for him. I was wrong. Buzz, the flaming queen, was so fun to watch that I realized that perhaps THIS role was the perfect role for him, as it got to showcase all of his comedic skills and timing. I was cracking up every time he walked onto the stage. Great stuff.

Bill Mercado was nothing short of physically and emotionally daring. He’s pretty much naked the entire show (and by naked, I mean naked). He took major risks in this role, and it paid off.

Tony DiDia’s transition from a reserved accountant to a potential risk taker was fun to watch. And his character’s partner, played by the always funny Chris Arena, delivered some of the best one-liners and sassy comebacks throughout the entire show.

Bill King pulls double duty in this production, playing twin brothers. He does a commendable job at making both characters vastly distinguishable. (One brother is very cynical…while the other is quite sweet.)

The set was very simple. Because of the simplicity, a lot of pantomiming was required. But that was okay. You got used to it after a while.

Let the record show that this show is NOT for young children and not for people who can do without mild distastefulness and strong language. The f-bomb is said so much, you’d think you were watching The Wolf of Wall Street. And yes, the actors in the show go full nude. While you do not see any graphic nudity, a lot of buttock is seen multiple times by every single character.

There were a couple audience members that were completely disgusted by the show and walked out during intermission. One audience member actually stood up in the middle of the show and said, “This is terrible. This is disgusting.” – A comment that was heard by the entire audience. That person and their significant other walked out of the theater, very disgusted. (It’s 2014… they gotta just accept real life stuff, you know?)

Overall, by the end of the show, you feel as though you’ve been on a long journey with these eight characters. I commend PinnWorth for taking this risk and putting up a show like this, and I particularly commend the actors for not holding back physically or mentally. By the end of the show, you will really feel like you know these guys.

The show runs one more weekend at Kelsey. I highly recommend you see it … though you should definitely find a babysitter and leave the kids at home.

CLICK HERE for ticket information.


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