Two-year-old Mortall Coile Theatre Company is currently staging Alexi Kaye Campbell’s 2008 “The Pride.” It boasts veteran Triangle actors in a professionally polished presentation, but the script about accepting one’s sexuality is unevenly written, a flaw not fully minimized by the production.
There are two sets of characters living in London, one in 1958, the other in 2008. Both sets have the same names played by the same actors, the scenes alternating between the time periods and mirroring each other.
The earlier story involves Philip and his wife, Sylvia, a book illustrator. When Sylvia introduces children’s author Oliver to her husband, there’s instant connection that leads to a furtive relationship. Oliver embraces it but Philip can’t handle it in such socially and politically conservative times.
The later story concerns journalist Oliver whose lover Philip has left him because Oliver craves casual sex outside their relationship. Oliver’s best friend, Sylvia, counsels him to decide what he wants most in life.
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Campbell points up the irony that both sexual repression and sexual liberation can destroy relationships, but does it so didactically that the characters often talk more like textbooks than real people. Most scenes go on longer than necessary and seem random snapshots rather than strongly connected narratives.
Jesse R. Gephart makes a clear distinction between 1958 Oliver, gentlemanly and quiet, and 2008 Oliver, wildly dramatic and caustically witty. Ryan Brock communicates the pain torturing both Philips, the one in 1958 because he can’t love freely, the one in 2008 because he loves too much.
As the earlier Sylvia, Page Purgar nicely grades her realization that she’s inadvertently caused a rift in her marriage, while giving the other Sylvia a lovable, wisecracking persona. In both, however, her delivery is often unrelentingly intense. Chris Milner fully inhabits his cameos as sex worker, magazine publisher and reparative therapy doctor.
Doubling as director, Gephart provides tight pacing, astute characterizations and clever scene transitions. But there are sudden shifts in tone from comic to tragic that need smoothing out.
Thomas Mauney’s beautiful living set and vivid lighting add sophistication, while Scott Parks’ original music provides further atmosphere.
Frank language and strong sexual content may limit the play’s appeal, but mature audiences should find some universal truths to ponder.