Interview with Jonathan Schell, Director of ‘Gay Men with Wives’

 

Opening this coming Friday at the Overtime Theatre is Schuyler Bishop’s edgy relationship comedy, Gay Men with Wives. Featuring a cast of six, it blends comedy with some serious social issues.

Overtime regular Jonathan Schell, who both directs and performs in the piece, took some time to talk to ArtScene SA about the production and its meaning to audiences.

ArtScene: So what is the show about?

Jonathan Schell: It’s about two couples who are neighbors, and the husbands are best friends. They’re also — I wouldn’t say full-on lovers — but they’re sexual with each other. One of the wives knows about it and the other one suspects, but has kind of blocked it out, pretending that it never happened. So she’s sort of blissfully ignorant to it, even though it’s still happening. The other wife is a little more supportive. She recognizes that this is a part of who her husband and the other man is.

One of the husbands has an estranged brother who comes to town for an impromptu visit at the request of his mother. That kind of throws another wrench in the works, and the show explores the dynamics of this relationship between these two brothers as well.

Gay Men with Wives
Front row: Angie Hernandez, Jonathan Schell, and Paul Ramos. Back row: Alaia Brown, Tim McCain, and Sharon Beales. (Photo credit: Jonathan Schell.)

I’ve seen it being described as a farce. I take it there are some humorous situations.

There certainly are. And that’s funny, because it deals with some very heavy topics. My character, for example, and my wife are having trouble conceiving. My best friend and sexual partners offers to donate his sperm. So it does address some heavier topics, but they’re approached in a more humorous way. Some of the characters’ reactions to certain situations are on the humorous side. We’re just trying to take a lighter approach to some heavier things.

How has it been working with your cast?

It’s been great. They’ve been attacking their characters in-depth. And we’re all very comfortable with each other.

What was your directorial approach?

It really was to let the actors have their moments, because each one does. There are six characters, and they each have strong personality traits. I wanted to let them have their moments so we can empathize for what they’re going through and feel for them, but also to take those comedic opportunities.

Again, not try to keep it so heavy! You certainly want the audience to come away thinking about things in ways that they hadn’t before, but not to the point that they feel like they just came out of a workout.

It’s a fine balance. There’s comedy, but there are also some tense moments and very tender moments. It runs the gamut of the emotional spectrum. There are some things that may make people uncomfortable; some things that they may not want to address.

So that’s what you want the audience to come away with?

Right. To think about the dynamics of relationships. This certainly takes things outside the box from what we normally view as healthy or “normal” behavior.

What is considered normal in a broad sense can be very different from how individuals view as normal for themselves. When you put something under a microscope and look at it from an individual’s perspective, it can be very different.


Gay Men with Wives plays January 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31 and Feb. 1 at 8:00 p.m. with special showtimes on Jan. 19 at 3:00 p.m. and Jan. 26 at 7:00 p.m. The Overtime Theatre is located at 5409 Bandera Road, Ste. 205. Tickets are available online.

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