Dallas Pride is a great time for theatergoing, and several gay short-play festivals — and Theatre Too’s full-sized production of ‘The Sum of Us’ — can attest
In the play The Sum of Us, the straight dad and his sexually-active gay son live together in harmony, each supportive of the other. In 1990, this was pretty radical storytelling — same-sex marriage was decades off, and the film Philadelphia wouldn’t come out for another three years. Even today, well-adjusted, civil co-habitation between generations is the exception, not the rule … or is it?
For Mark C. Guerra, director of Theatre Too’s new production of the play (opening this weekend), truth is definitely not stranger than fiction.
“It reflects me a lot,” says Guerra in a break from final rehearsals. “I found the script eight years ago… and eight years ago was also when my father moved in with me. [The story of this play] really has been my life: Gay son and dad living together and the son is a good guy who can’t find anyone.”
One difference in The Harry, the dad in the play, had a medical condition, but not Guerra’s dad… at least until the first week of rehearsals, when Guerra Sr. suffered a heart attack.
“Then it really hit home in a really tough way… it has been very emotional [for me],” Guerra says. (His dad, by the way, is doing very well.)
It’s a fitting piece for Guerra to make a kind of debut in. Although he has acted in small parts for Theatre 3 and other premiere local companies for 10 years, and has directed and designed for community and children’s theater, The Sum of Us represents his emergence as a director of an Equity production.
He’s energized by the challenge. It could be a mixed bag, the embodiment of “be careful what you wish for: ” Holding onto a play for nearly a decade and finally getting to do it could have meant realizing the show had gotten away from you, or lead to disappointments. But nothing could be further from the reality for Guerra.
“The universe really gives me what I need,” he says. “I ‘cast’ this with local actors in my head a long time ago — I had revolved the whole thing around the son, Jeff, because I connected with that character so much. But [as I have gotten older], I have really realized the dad is really the driving force behind it all. And I’ve known Randy Pearlman — who plays the dad — for a long time. I’m really blessed with these actors.”
He’s also blessed by timing: The Sum of Us is the latest in a string of plays, running throughout September, that focus on the gay experience … and take place during Dallas Pride as well. It’s a welcome synergy. (See sidebar.)
“I’m so happy it’s happening during Pride — this is a PFLAG show in and out,” he says. “The show is about acceptance and unconditional love … and really, about homophobia. Everybody has a little bit of it. Even as a gay man myself, I’ve gone through that ‘People says it’s a choice — is it?’ phase. Jeff says the same thing. And his boyfriend is closeted and not out to his parents. It shows [homophobia] doesn’t have to be a ‘hate’ thing, it’s just how we are perceived. It’s about accepting love.”
And ultimately that is what gay Pride and all the parades are for.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2016.