“SLIPPING” – Now at New Conservatory Theatre Center

Sean Martinfield, Arts Contributor

Playwright Daniel Talbot’s Slipping makes its Bay Area premiere at New Conservatory Theatre Center now through July 1st. The story is about “Eli” – a really out and reticent Gay high school student long-accustomed to the physical taunts and verbal jabs that simply go with the territory. The play combines two time frames – that was then, this is now. Eli and Jan (his mother) used to live in San Francisco. Now they’re in Des Moines. Not much going on in Des Moines for an angry skinny boy with punkish blue hair, a camera around his neck, who smokes too much, and has taken to cutting himself again. Since her husband’s death – and the relocation to Iowa to become an English teacher and start all over – Jan has jumped into an affair with a younger man, not one of her students. No mistaking the variety of moaning coming from her bedroom. But Eli has plenty of noise going on his head to block it, some of it about missing an abusive relationship with Chris – a wild kid back in the City who would threaten to kill him should he open his mouth about their big secret. But now, Eli has outed Jake – the gawky guy in Art Class who is into sports and, since their experimental encounters, believes he and Eli may have a future together. Eli and his mother reach the overdue boiling point, firing the F-word back and forth. He cuts his wrist. Jake crawls into bed with him at the hospital. No secrets now. Perhaps Eli will learn to accept love.

Evan Johnson (Lois Tema Photography)

Whatever may be missing in Talbott’s script is made-up for in the intense and compelling performances by its cast and the fine direction of Andrew Nance. The situations are topical and the characters are familiar. New Conservatory Theatre’s production of Slipping is a positive move in its continuous effort to bring complex issues to the stage and to encourage new playwrights who challenge the status quo with the benefits of excellent production values and an increasingly loyal subscription audience.

“To me,” says Daniel Talbott, “the play is about reaching out. I had this really intense relationship for a long time, and that relationship—having someone love me and be there for me—was what sent me over the edge and really kind of crashed me out. The play is about that and the need to break that open in order to start to become healthy.”

Benjamin Ismail (Jake), Fernando Navales (Chris), Evan Johnson (Eli), and Stacy Thunes (Jan) (Lois Tema Photography)

Click here to purchase tickets on-line: SLIPPING

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