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Second Weekend in September

City Lights Theater Company of San Jose presents a powerful gay love story

PLAYWRIGHT Andrew Black is quick to acknowledge the debt his play Second Weekend in September, now at City Lights Theater Company, owes to Same Time, Next Year, among other predecessors. But Michael (Christopher P. Kelly) and David (Bradly Mena) are so much more than gay versions of George and Doris, their heterosexual counterparts. For starters, they are more interesting, both as individuals and as a couple, and the dialogue that Black has put in their mouths is uniformly sharp, whether the scene is poignant or laugh-out-loud hilarious. With fine directing by Caroline Altman, terrific acting by Kelly and Mena and a handsome and versatile set by Ron Gasparinetti, this is an impressive debut.

When we first meet David, an 18-year-old student, and Michael, a 30-year-old married father of two, the stage is dark, but we can hear the two men in bed with each other, their cries of ecstasy the theater’s only soundtrack. Michael has spent his whole life pushing down his sexuality while David has spent much of his young life reveling in his. For all their differences, the two men have a deep connection. Great sex and a shared fondness for Freddie Mercury and trashy TV are among the seemingly superficial things that unite them. By lingering on such surface aspects of his characters, Black honors relationships that are constrained by limits, which for David and Michael also includes getting together but once a year. Such relationships, Black proves, can still be filled with love.

The play brings these two men together every five years, which lets us observe them as they grow (David) or stagnate (Michael). For example, we watch David get politicized by his work as a nurse on Ward 5B at San Francisco General Hospital, which in 1987 was, as David puts it, “AIDS central.” We learn of Michael’s struggles with his son, who turns to drugs and ends up in prison. And we are surprised when the inevitable proposal by one of them to turn their yearly encounters into something more permanent is rebuffed.

As the play proceeds, with maid Katie Schurtz making the hotel room’s bed between each scene, numerous red herrings fall by the wayside until we finally meet Michael’s namesake son (Alexander Hero), who convincingly navigates the very steep character arc Black has prepared for him. It’s a strong ending to a strong evening of theater.

Second Weekend in September
Runs through June 20 @ City Lights, 529 S. Second St., San Jose
Plays Thursday–Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 7pm (May 30 and June 8) or Sunday at 2pm (June 13 and 20)
Tickets are $25–$40