Same Time Next Queer: New Gay Play Promises 'Electricity'

Contributing Editor
Mel England (right) and Terry Ray in Electricity, a play that follows the relationship of two men who meet every 10 years at their high-school reunion.
Mike Pingel

There's a spark that happens when two connected souls meet -- a heat, a jolt. When it's a true emotional contact, nothing can keep the two apart, not time or distance.

That's the idea behind the two-person play Electricity. The production started with a short run in Los Angeles, performed in a few venues around the country, and has been enjoying an extended run in Palm Springs at the popular clothing-optional resort, INNdulge, for the past two years.

Written by writer and actor Terry Ray, Electricity is a love story about two men who meet up at their 10-year high-school reunion: closeted ex-seminary student Gary Henderson, played by Ray, and out, bold and boozy Brad Burke, played by Mel England. The play follows the two men as their relationship develops over four decades -- the men meet up only every 10 years at their reunions. It's a rocky, emotional trip, at turns funny and sad, as we follow them through their own journeys of self-discovery. The play starts in 1983 in small-town Ohio and takes us through the decades, following the characters as they navigate the AIDS crisis, addiction, family, and love.

Ray, a veteran actor and writer with numerous television and movie credits, wrote the play after the success of his award-winning short film, GAYDAR.

"I wanted to write something that people could relate to," Ray said. "It's for those of us who came of age in the 70s and 80s, through the time when AIDS was killing us, when we couldn't even think of gay marriage being a reality."

With each decade, the audience follows Gary and Brad as they navigate the undeniable attraction they have for each other. They coo, flirt, cuddle, bicker, and fight through the years, eventually falling in love. Both characters also experience their own life-threatening illnesses, with Brad battling alcoholism and addiction and Gary becoming HIV positive, getting sick with AIDS, then recovering to live a healthy life.

After the success of the play's run in Los Angeles, Ray looked for another venue to continue performing the work. "Since the play takes place in a hotel room, we thought it would be really interesting to actually produce it in a hotel room," Ray said. The hotel room at INNdulge accommodates 20 people for the four-scene, no-intermission performance.

"We have the audience meet us in the lobby for cocktails and a reception, so they feel like they're at the actual high-school reunion. They meet the characters of Brad and Gary, then they follow [the actors] to the hotel room for the show," Ray explained.

"It's really intimate," England said, "since the audience is right there, you know? They feel like they're really with you, part of the story." England, himself living with HIV, said that the play really resonates with audience members. "It tells our story, and people find themselves laughing -- and then they cry. They recognize themselves in the story of these two guys, these men who are really just trying to connect with each other."

The play is looking forward to an Off-Broadway run in New York and currently looking for investors in the project. "We've had a lot of audiences tell us that we need to bring the show to their town, that they want to see it performed locally," Ray said. "We want to perform in New York first, then look to taking the show on the road."

The theatre scene is definitely in need of a fresh play for a gay audience, especially one that includes a positive HIV storyline that doesn't end in tragedy. Electricity might have a strong enough current to fill that void and shine a light on topics that many in the LGBTQ community can relate to.

For information on Electricity, including upcoming performances and updates for the Off-Broadway production, visit the play's website.