Review: My Night With Reg (Studio 180)

My Night with Reg is “fantastic” and “nuanced”, on stage at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto

My Night with Reg, a Studio 180 production, had it’s Canadian premier on Wednesday as part of the Off-Mirvish series. Based on the pull quotes on the poster at the theatre you could be forgiven for expecting a rollicking comedy. It’s witty and funny but it’s also honest and heartbreaking. It’s much more than a gay drawing room comedy.

Playwright Kevin Elyot wrote My Night with Reg in the early ’90s. It premiered in London in 1994. Set in the mid 1980s it spans several years in the lives of six gay friends during the AIDS crisis. Mostly they chat, laugh, offer each other advice, drink a lot, and have sex with Reg. By the end of the second scene we know that four of the six characters have had sex with him.

Although he’s central to the plot Reg never actually appears onstage. In the same way, no one on stage ever says AIDS even though it’s a key player in the piece.

Of course my experience of the play as a 66-year-old straight woman is undoubtedly very different than that of a 66-year-old gay man. In turn, people who were not yet born, or still very young, in the mid 80s and had a very different experience of how HIV/AIDS was presented to the public likely would also have an entirely different experience.

There are so many things happening between all the characters that if I started to describe them this would turn into a script synopsis instead of a review. There is a lot to keep you entertained and a great deal to appreciate about the dynamic between a group of close friends.

I liked that there are no gay caricatures, simply characters; a group of men who happened to be gay. They felt like real people to me. In fact they felt a lot like yuppies I knew in the ‘80s.

The entire cast, Tim Funnell, Alex Furber, Martin Happer, Jeff Miller, Gray Powell, and Jonathan Wilson, were wonderful. I’m hard-pressed to single out any one actor. They all delivered fantastic nuanced performances that felt real. It was as if I knew the people on stage.

There are three scenes. The first is Guy’s house-warming party. The second is after Reg’s funeral, and the third is after another funeral.

The lights go down between scenes but because they are set in the same room and the actors are all wearing the same costumes they wore in the previous scene – except for the third scene when two of the actors are in states of undress – the audience has to work a bit to know what’s happening. It takes a few minutes to know what the scene is about, it’s not immediately obvious. Lovely that director Joel Greenberg trusts the audience.

All three scenes take place in Guy’s living room, and a lovely living room it is. John Thompson’s set is traditional mid ‘80s yuppie with a couch, coffee table, an antique looking desk and sideboard, and a solarium. And the requisite David Hockney poster on the wall.

Thompson also designed the costumes. Five of the men wore well-tailored suits. I loved the way that the clothes reinforced the personality of each character. Even before Guy spoke a word I knew that he was going to be nice; a bit fussy and nervous maybe, but a lovely person.

I really loved My Night With Reg, I thought it was a fabulous play and I highly recommend it. I also recommend paying attention to the warning about mature content. Don’t take your kids – unless they’re at least in their mid-teens.

Details:

  • My Night With Reg is playing until February 26, 2017 at the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge Street)
  • Shows run Tuesday to Saturday 8PM and Saturday & Sunday 2PM
  • Ticket prices range from $39 to $92
  • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-872-1212/1800-461-3333, and at the box office
  • Contains mature content, strong language and nudity. Herbal cigarettes are smoked on stage. Recommended for ages 14 plus.
Photo of Jonathan Wilson and Jeff Miller by Cylla Von Tiedemann

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