I wouldn’t recommend you buy tickets to a show just because it had LGBTQ content. But I have no problem urging you to see Poster Boy, which runs through Sunday, August 7 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. It is a stirring, nuanced, complex theatre piece – with great music and uniquely defined characters — that searches for explanations for a tragedy, finds no simple answers, but leaves you with a lot of new information to think about as you wonder what the full story was and what it means to your own life.
The musical play is based on the suicide of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge in 2010 after his roommate secretly videoed him having a sexual encounter with another man in their dorm room. The roommate watched the video live with friends from another room.
Like most people, I believed that Tyler was a deeply closeted kid who killed himself because he was outed. Everyone I know thought that was the story, too. But as the play tells us, that wasn’t his story at all.
The tale is told through the eyes of members of an online gay chat room that Tyler had visited often since he was a young teenager. Discovering that the nice kid they knew as “cit2mo” was the same young man whose suicide everyone had read about in the papers, they knew from their interaction with him that the simple explanation – the outing of a closet case – wasn’t it at all. They search for a better explanation, and through their search reveal to us and to one another the complexity of who they are as individuals and what finding community through the chat room provided them with.
I don’t want to tell you more about the story. I hope you will find it out by seeing the show. I will tell you that the performances are wonderful, with deftly revealed characterization, terrific singing voices, and the level of complexity you find in real life. The set does nothing more than re-create the feel of a dorm room, which is exactly what it should do, while also being able to capture the feel of people conversing with one another in cyberspace. I haven’t seen lighting play such a prominent and powerful role since Berkshire Theatre Group’s “Tommy” oh so many years ago now.
If you have the time – and can afford the $63 for the ticket – I hope you will go and that you’ll be moved by the show as much as my husband, Howard, and I were. There are still some tickets available. You can get them online at wtfestival.org or through the box office at 413-597-3400.
Incidentally, after connecting with WTF when 14 Rainbow Seniors attended their amazing community production “Orpheus in the Berkshires,” the theatre was kind enough to invite me to join the Poster Boy’s creators in a Lawn Talk before the Sunday show, where I had the chance to tell audience members about the reason we have Rainbow Seniors and how to find us.
The pictures shown here are from a rehearsal (photo credit: Daniel Rader) and from the opening night party, which I deftly crashed.