Sunday, October 22, 2017

Con-Con’s “In the Closet,” a thoughtful journey into whether anyone can ever emerge from hiding

Have you ever wondered if your life would have played out differently if, at a young age, you had been able to meet “yourself” a couple of years older, forty years older, and then you as a person near the end of your life?  Would the knowledge of the path you would follow, what pitfalls you would encounter, what decisions you made, make your life different?

That’s basically what happens to “John,” in Siegmund Fuchs’ literal and metaphorical closet in “In The Closet,” now on stage at convergence-continuum.

Siegmund Fuchs, a practicing lawyer who dabbles in play writing, is a native Clevelander.  His first play, “Never Turned Out To Be Four Months,” was first performed at John Carroll in 1998.  He has won recognition in several playwriting competitions with his “In The Closet” being a finalist in the 2015 Elitch Historical Theatre Playwriting Competition.

As the audience enters the small black box, Liminis Theatre, the home of convergence-continuum, they find themselves seated in an area entirely surrounded by men’s clothes.  The “closet” is well- organized.  There is a color—coded place for shirts, another for jackets and coats, another for sweaters and t-shirts.  Besides clarifying the setting, various pieces of apparel will be used as the play progresses to aid in character changes and plot development.

We find Old Man, then Middle-Aged Man and finally Young Man entering into the space for various reasons. 

Old Man is writing his autobiography, which includes comments about the long term cancer illness of his husband. 

Middle-Aged man, who was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, is confronting his being “old” in a community of men who value youth. 

Young Man shows facial abrasions from his being raped by five men at a party which he was being paid to attend by his bar-owning boss.  He is in the process of a trial for the attackers.

In the midst of their revelations, youthful John enters.  He has just experienced his first gay sexual experience and is angst-filled. 

Why are these men here?  Why do they share information that only each would know if they had lived the same life?  Can they ever “leave the closet”?

The story’s exposition unfolds slowly, the speeches often filled with clichés, and obvious laugh lines, but settles into an interesting framework somewhere during the first act, maturing into a thought-provoking second act.

Director Cory Molner, who designed the clever set, also does a nice job of pacing the performances so that the audience becomes sucked into the swerves of the tale, wondering if any of these men will ever escape the safety of the closet…the place in their minds where they can feel safe, unencumbered by the attitudes, beliefs and criticism of the outside world.

In his con-con debut, handsome young David Lenahan impresses as John.  He has a natural presence and textures the character’s many emotional roller-coaster ride reactions to what he finds out about his present and future life.  This is a talented young man.

Mike Frye nicely develops the tale of his rape and trial experience as Young Man.  Jason Romer, though he sometimes becomes an actor rather than the person he is portraying, has some nice moments as Middle-Aged Man.  Clyde Simon is convincing as Old Man.

Capsule Judgement: “In the Closet” is not a great play, but it is a script that incites a great deal of thought.  It gets a very creditable production at con-con.

“In The Closet” runs through November 4, 2017, at 8 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at convergence-continuum’s artistic home, The Liminis, at 2438 Scranton Rd. in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood.  For information and reservations call 216-687-0074 or go to

Next up at con-con: Cleveland playwright Jonathan Wilhelm’s “Camp Beaucoup Congo” from November 16-18, followed by the World Premiere of “The Chaste Genius and His Deathray Gun,” a tale of Tesla, who developed alternating current, florescent bulbs, lasers and robotics as he wrestles with his friends and detractors.