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Afterglow review at Southwark Playhouse, London – ‘predictable plotting and paper-thin-characters’

Jesse Fox and Danny Mahoney in Afterglow at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Darren Bell
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The pleasure and perils of polyamory are expounded in S Asher Gelman’s Afterglow, arriving to London following a hugely successful run Off-Broadway in 2017.

Although loosely based on his own private life, Gelman claims that this is not an exclusively gay story. He wrote it to address the lack of work on stage exploring consensual non-monogamous relationships.

Alex (Danny Mahoney) and Josh (Sean Hart) are a married couple, living the dream in Manhattan. They are comfortably well-off, classically good-looking and expecting a child via a surrogate in the not-too-distant future. This idyll is sustained through an open relationship, fortified by mutual trust, honesty and agreed boundaries. When the younger Darius (Jesse Fox) joins them both for a night of sex, Josh can’t resist seeing him again the following day and before long, their developing emotional relationship threatens the couple’s marriage.

But, far from being a new story, Gelman has sexed-up the age-old eternal triangle saga. There’s very little in this undemanding play that feels either radical or challenging. The plot is predictable, the characters two-dimensional and the production stuffed with gratuitous nudity.

Tom O’Brien’s agile direction adds a sense of pace to what would otherwise be a lethargic narrative. Libby Todd’s gimmicky design boasts an onstage shower in an otherwise strangely claustrophobic set. Mahoney, Hart and Fox share a sense of genuine intimacy on stage but there’s too little meat on the bones of this play to make it even remotely satisfying as drama.

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Verdict
Play about an open gay relationship that suffers from predictable plotting, paper-thin characters and gratuitous nudity
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