Dooley & A Taste of Heaven

Two one-acts we'd see just to watch the actors

Alan Quismorio directs two one-acts at the New Conservatory that examine cautious gay desire in two separate phases of American history. Dooley is Harry Cronin's gemlike play about the once-famous naval officer Dr. Thomas Dooley, who all but sold the notion of American involvement in French Indochina to the U.S. public during the '50s. Dooley was an intelligent, liberal-minded soldier -- think of a young John F. Kennedy, or Daniel Ellsberg as a Marine -- who happened, also, to be gay. He died in disgrace at age 34 after a sting operation by the Navy itself. Dooley imagines the night of his downfall in a New York hotel room. The tension I remember from the play's original run in 2002 seems to be missing from this production, but maybe that's because I know what happens. Nick Sholley as Dooley and Pete Caslavka as his young seducer nevertheless do nuanced, unpretentious work, and they're just as unpretentious in Michael D. Jackson's A Taste of Heaven, about two American bachelors trying to have a fling in 1886. The script is based on the journal of a minor poet named F.S. Ryman, who was young and straight but found himself in love for a year with a "cocksucker" -- his word -- named Rob Luke. Heaven, like Dooley, makes for an interesting historical snapshot of subterranean love. It falls short of being a gripping or dramatic story, though, because not enough seems at stake. I'd go just to watch Sholley and Caslavka act.

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