running time: one hour, twenty minutes
setting: Rusalka’s garret in London; various locations in an American city
period: the Victorian Age/contemporary
Leo, a young homosexual living in modern day America
James, his ex-boyfriend
Rusalka, a young Russian widow living in Victorian London
Damien, her deceased husband
The Doorman/Ted, a Victorian pimp/an aspiring sex daddy
Hunter, Max, Scott, Ian- Leo’s various tricks
The Gentleman, The Student, The Sailor, The Old Man- Rusalka’s clients
The stage is split between two stories, the tale of Rusalka, a beautiful young Russian woman left to fend for herself in Victorian Age London after the death of her husband, and Leo, a young American man struggling to find his homosexual identity in the wake of an amicable break-up with his lover. Each are heavily flirting with self-destruction through sex, she by becoming a prostitute, he by hooking up with an endless barrage of tricks arranged for him through Ted, a sleazy quasi-pimp. Each are accompanied in this journey by the source of their respective pain, with Rusalka’s husband, Damien, appearing as a ghost outside her window each night and James, Leo’s former lover, lurking in the corner as a concerned but helpless friend. As the pair, in their respective time periods, weave their way through a series of interconnected sexual encounters they eventually build to a moment where they are able to cross time periods and advise one another, finally gaining the inner strength to throw off their pain by confronting it and moving on with their lives. The action is bookended by two versions of the same story, a fairy tale about a world cursed, covered with a blanket of eternal night through which a bird, pecking with its beak, is ultimately able to create the moon and the stars.
This is an interesting little play that arrived at a very key moment in my development as a writer. Based on my own confused and often painful feelings over my personal romantic issues, it was written in a single weekend and hasn’t been much revised since. It did get a reading at the Old Pueblo Playwrights, where it was not well received and actually resulted in my leaving the group, but it’s never been produced and I’m not sure that I ever expect it to- it’s really very, very dark, almost relentlessly so, and the sex is so graphic throughout that only a gay theater troupe might be interested and, frankly put, it’s lacking on other fronts the stuff that usually gets those sorts of groups involved- i.e. drag queens and jokes. I don’t think it’s a bad play. Actually, I think it’s pretty good, with some really beautiful dialogue and an almost perfect dramatic structure, but the dual time periods commenting on each other is something I pull off much better in Vincent of Gilgamesh and almost everything else I’ve written is more audience friendly. Still, I’d love to see it staged in my lifetime, but interestingly enough, it’s not something I ever really want to direct and while I do think my work is a lot more marketable than some people give it credit for, this piece is, admittedly, kind of narrow in appeal. One fun little bit of trivia: I reference this show in Troijka, where a much more jaded and brazen Rusalka re-appears as one of the whores in Madame Yvette’s brothel, and Leo is mentioned as the name of the boy Jean is replacing. Were the two shows ever run in rep, it might be interesting to have the same actress in both roles, and whoever is cast as Armand in Troijka play The Doorman in Life in Darkness.