We’re always voyeurs, as audiences in a theater, but the three-paneled walls we peer through in Cabin only heighten our perverse role. In this titular cabin, men are spied on by more than just the audience.
Is Sean Donovan’s new play a bittersweet romance, a queer thriller, or a haunting look at outsiders in unfamiliar terrain? It boldly marries all three in its intricate constellation — or cobweb — that is now playing through June 8 at The Bushwick Starr.
S meets Paul, then S meets Stewart, and soon the three are escaping the city to galavant and smoke and make love deep in the woods, high in a relative’s getaway home, so elevated it sits above the rolling fog. The home’s clear vistas offer no safety.
Not long into their increasingly regular sojourns, S (Sean Donovan, who also directs) meets a mysterious older townie who develops a strange and off-putting obsession with the three gay men, who together exist in a relatively stable friendship and romance.
This is what S regales in a mammoth monologue at the geographical center of Cabin. We learn about the cabin’s history and tchotchkes, we see Stewart (Tyler Ashley) try out a new dance routine with Paul (Brandon Washington), and we then worry for their safety. But how the play’s eerie quality emerges is both jarring and subtle — it happens all at once, and yet it was there all along. Can queer men be safe even in isolated, fortressed havens?
To clearly answer that would both spoil and undermine this play, which provides no easy answers. But here’s what this sly and dangerous play does do: it uses those three window panes for more than just peering, as in one mystical touch they become a reflector for the warm vignettes of memories past. It showcases Tyler Ashley’s virtuosic dance and lip sync talents. (For proof, see last year’s Bushwig performance.) And it ends with a lyrical blow so theatrical you’ll be reminded, again and again, how marvelous The Bushwick Starr is, how idiosyncratic its programming, and how mysterious and tender this gem of a play is.