Among the numerous matters that perplex people in their search for happiness, Zachary Chiero knows those involving the heart can daunt even the most ambitious individuals.
Eager to gauge how sexual identities can assist or sully their quests, the resident of the 500 block of Christian Street is portraying Evan, the solution-seeking lead in the Philadelphia premiere of “The Homosexuals,” one of four plays in Quince Productions’ third annual GayFest! Along with testing his acting acumen, the one-act creation is affording him the chance to work with six other South Philly-based performers and Lower Moyamensing-situated director Sarah J. Gafgen.
“Regardless of whether someone is gay or straight, we all have daily struggles, so along with issues directly relevant to the gay community, this work explores our commonalities,” Chiero said of the Philip Dawkins-penned piece. “Certainly the material is heavy at times but also quite funny.”
The Queen Village dweller is making his second appearance in GayFest!, through which its five-year-old overseer is using four Center City venues for its typical top draws. He, Gafgen and Dexter Anderson, a 10th-and-Fitzwater-streets inhabitant who also tackles a provocative role in the festival’s world premiere of “Someone Brought Me,” have 11 peers in the shows, with their collaboration featuring an all-South Philly cast.
“Our neighborhoods have many talented entertainers, so it’s enlightening to witness their combined enthusiasm,” Gafgen said.
The resident of the 900 block of Ritner Street has frequently contributed to Quince’s quest for presenting quality productions and gladly accepted producing artistic director Rich Rubin’s offer to helm “The Homosexuals.” Set in Chicago, the examination of dilemmas and hopes among contemporary gays appealed to Gafgen because of its looks at friendship, patience, tolerance and self-worth.
“We’re all enthused about telling an honest story,” the New Jersey native said of her management of the nearly two-hour study. “It’s one of the most exciting projects I’ve had the chance to work on because it can offer so many lessons and inspire tons of points of view.”
She and her charges commence the play in 2010, with Chiero’s character, a recent Iowa transplant, engaging in his customary search for emotional attachments. The action works backwards to ’00 in two-year increments, with Gafgen using visual aids to chronicle a decade’s worth of prominent events within gay culture, including national perceptions of the hot-button issue of gay marriage.
“We’re not preachy with what we address,” Chiero said, adding the script touches briefly on the AIDS crisis, too. “We’re showing real people dealing with real things.”
The thespian, whose boyfriend, Shamus Hunter McCarty, is joining him in the play, finds its romantic elements intriguing yet also wishes to give credence to its treatment of companionship. Anderson, whose character, Collin, develops a five-year relationship with Evan, likewise feels non-sexual unions come through as poignant parts of Dawkins’ script.
“I saw something that said the average friendship lasts seven years,” the Bella Vista denizen, who is making his Philadelphia debut, said. “I think this play wants us to analyze what we do when people come along and what happens when we say ‘goodbye’ and don’t even know what becomes of them. That can also lead us to understand we have to be mindful of how much emotion we put into something.”
For Chiero, whose resumé includes eight productions with the Center City-based Enchantment Theatre Co., which offers productions geared toward young audiences, “The Homosexuals” provides a unique opportunity, as its backwards progression sees Evan becoming less self-aware and more confused.
“That’s a huge challenge but a welcomed one because I am looking to see how to play him the best,” he said of the role he is handling through Aug. 24. “We all have our little tasks and by the end, we’re all wondering who our characters have been and who they might become.”
Anderson is experimenting with novelty, too, as the heterosexual actor has needed to make sure he does not offend anyone with an over-the-top performance that could lead to accusations of stereotypical portrayals of homosexuals. Regardless of his or his character’s sexual orientation, he knows patrons want heartfelt tales, and he reveres his opportunity to devote his allegiance to the material.
“There’s so much soul-searching in these works,” Anderson, who is shedding any inhibition with full-frontal nudity as The Boy, a downtrodden component of Daniel Talbott’s “Someone Brought Me,” said. “It’s pretty neat to identify with what everyone’s going through on stage.”
The world premiere of “Cold” and the Philadelphia debut of “The New Century” round out the quartet of pieces, with Quince also presenting readings and what it has dubbed “one-night stands,” which will include evenings devoted to cabaret, sketch comedy and transgender issues.
“With ‘The Homosexuals,’ we have all these characters bringing different perspectives to Evan,” Gafgen said of a compelling component of the work. “With all those points of view swirling around, we’re really looking to address how individuals manage themselves in preparation for their relationships and friendships.”
“We’re definitely not all the same,” Anderson added, noting his character encourages Chiero’s to believe that good can come from being a persistent believer in oneself.
As the play works backwards and addresses pluses and minuses along the march to maturity, one could wonder who the characters could become if allotted more time.
“I think all the shows want audiences to ask that because it’s human nature to have expectations,” Chiero said. “Life has ups and downs, and it’s vital to learn from each.”
For tickets, visit quinceproductions.com.
Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org or ext. 124.