“The David Dance” began its run in the Robert E. Sinclair Theater on Tuesday Feb. 10 and will continue on through Sunday Feb. 15. The play brought often-intermingled issues of self-worth, sexual orientation, relationships and personal identity to the stage. It was guest-directed by original writer, producer and star of the award-winning film adaptation Don Scimé ‘89.
“The David Dance” follows the story of David, played by senior Connor McLoughlin.
David hosts a Buffalo radio show called “Gay Talk.” His DJ alter-ego, Danger Dave, discusses gay news and issues in a witty and outspoken manner. Despite the outlandish antics of Danger Dave, however, David is compassionate, sensitive and deeply struggling with his own identity. He is awkward and painfully self-conscious; unable to break from the confines of his own apprehensions. Scimé said that the show discusses how “feeling different is kind of a universal feeling.”
David is extremely close with his sister Kate, played by sophomore Emily Bantelman. A thrice-divorced 39-year-old, Kate constantly tries to pull David out of his self-isolation. When she decides to adopt a child from Brazil, she asks David to act as a father figure. When David meets his new technical assistant Chris––played by junior Dennis Caughlin––the chemistry is palpable.
Kate is the main force in drawing the two together. Their dynamic is intriguing––while David takes the lead on the radio show, it is Chris who takes the initiative in their budding romance. Throughout the show, David is forced to deal with his own sense of inadequacy in order to better his relationships with both Chris and Kate.
Scimé noted that he drew much of the inspiration for “The David Dance” from his own life. “It’s based on a conversation that I had with my sister about 10 years ago,” he said. “She was kind of thinking about adopting and asked me if I would help out. That idea sort of grew in my imagination. I also overheard a conversation … about a woman who was trying to convince people to do conversion therapy. I had those two ideas sort of just grow.”
While the play is not autobiographical, Scimé said, “I didn’t really come out to my parents until I was like 30, so the character’s a lot like me in a lot of ways.”
The issues tackled in “The David Dance” are relatively mature, but each character is poignantly portrayed by the cast of student actors. McLoughlin played David in such a way that the audience felt every emotion he experienced—his pain was their pain. The romance between David and Chris felt all too real––I experienced true relief when the two finally shared their first public kiss on the air.
Scimé noted that he hopes that audience members will gain “an awareness of just really being kind to each other and really thinking about what [they] say to other people and how it can have an effect on them.” The taunting David faced as a child reinforces this theme, as Scimé added that the play is also “very much about how words can affect people.”
“The David Dance” was clever, inspiring and thought-provoking. The non-linear narrative provides an unusual form of storytelling that kept the audience engaged from beginning to end. The students’ portrayal of each character was exceptional, and the emotional themes of the play will resonate with audiences long after the curtain closes.