by Lew Routh,

I had an opportunity to see DRAMA's production of Robert Patrick's The Haunted Host last night at previews at Cowpokes 1030 Marigny.

For those who are not aware, DRAMA! is New Orleans gay & lesbian theatre company; supporting their productions is an investment in yourself; so go -- always -- you will miss it if it ever leaves. Robert Patrick is considered the "father" of gay theatre, along with many other playwrights who began writing plays with gay themes in New York at the Cafe Chino in the early 60's. The Haunted Host is one of Robert's earliest plays, from the same era as Marc Crowley's Boys in the Band. It is interesting to see how two playwrights from the same era capture the "angst" of being gay -- Patrick's gay man never hates himself for being gay as so many of Crowley's characters do, his angst comes from loving someone -- and his fear that it may happen again -- he is too vulnerable.

I knew the script well, having read it years ago, and remembered thinking at the time, "This would be a very difficult piece to direct -- you'd need some excellent actors!" With only two people in the cast, it is a demanding piece of theatre.

The Haunted Host was brilliantly directed by Daniel LaForce, and the actors, Blake Balu and Richard Alexander Pomes were magnificent! Blake's performance was electrifying and young Richard Alexander was mesmerizing; but it is the "whole production" which shines. Nuances, in Cowpokes intimate space, are not lost, the brimming tears glisten and the fragility of those raw emotions are placed squarely in our laps.

They all did an amazingly compelling job. The comedy was right on the target provoking huge laughs and the drama was thought-provoking, leaving you thinking and introspecting all the way home. Even the "technical aspects" of the show were perfect, car horns and traffic sounds when windows open, phones ringing. I mention this because so many times the dedication of the actors is not enough, a missed light or sound cue can spoil the best of plays. But this show was wrapped in the embrace of a cast and crew who warmed to its passion and lovingly presented it to us.

Yes, it is drama -- it's compelling, it forces you to think -- it demands that you empathize! You laugh, you cry, and you are amazed that you have the good fortune to live in a city where this kind of talent thrives.

I not only urge you to see it, I demand that you go! And I ask that you spread the word. New Orleans theatre-goers will not want to miss this supurb production.

I want to thank DRAMA! for allowing me to hand-out playbills last night and to say that I was a part of this "collaborative art," it is an honor to be in such company.