Playwright Nicky Silver’s The Maiden’s Prayer, which premiered off-Broadway in 1998, will have its first Vancouver production at Studio 16 at the end of February.
The play focuses on four 30-something friends: Taylor, a handsome, recovering drug addict and alcoholic; Cynthia, his straight-laced new wife; Paul, his gay best friend who has been in love with him since childhood; and Libby, Cynthia’s sister, a hard-drinking prostitute who is also in love with Taylor.
The story explores all the complex messiness of love without providing answers, which is just as well says the show’s director, John Prowse.
“You don’t want an after school special kind of feel to a play,” he quips.
The play’s big hook is the unrequited love experienced by Paul and Libby, a plight that just about everyone has experienced in some form or another.
“The Paul character, under normal circumstances [could be called] very promiscuous; under some gay circumstances [he’d be called] normal,” muses Thrasso Petras, who plays Paul. “I don’t think he has had any long-term relationships. He is constantly sleeping with these guys while in his heart he’s in love with Taylor, even though realistically he’s accepted that nothing is going to happen.”
“And when Libby’s character talks about when she’s sleeping with her clients,” adds Prowse. “Taylor asks her, ‘How can you do it?’ And she says, ‘Easy. I imagine it’s you.'”
Petras says when he read the script it instantly clicked with him.
“I thought, ‘Oh, wow. It’s me!’ With most characters, you’re playing some kind of weird gargoyle or somebody that has a life that’s completely different from yours. You have to figure out, ‘Well, how do I connect? What’s the common thread so that I can bring myself to this?’ And with this one, it’s the opposite: ‘How am I different from this character?'”
“It’s that sense of having an ideal in your head of a perfect love but never being able to achieve it because you pick people you can’t have or you find yourself in circumstances where it isn’t going to work,” says Prowse. “I think Paul has decided that just holding onto that ideal of love is going to sustain him and everything else is just sex.”
Petras adds, “This is a huge generalization, but promiscuity sounds like a stereotypical gay community thing. Why do we do that? It’s like we’re kissing frogs, constantly looking for that perfect thing that we all want, yet it’s almost as if some of that behaviour is counterintuitive to really finding it. Are we really investing time in getting to know people, or are we just sleeping with them and hoping that it clicks?”
Asked why many gay men behave this way, Petras says, “I think it’s kind of because we can. Not all gay men are doing that, right? But perhaps it’s a predominant scenario because we can. If I could lick my own balls, I would. It’s too easy.
“It’s like, here are your choices: broccoli or fudge,” he continues. “You’re always going to pick fudge, even though inevitably you really need some broccoli. You know you want it, your body’s asking for it, your soul’s asking for it, but your mind’s just going to say, ‘Mmm. Fudge.'” He pauses. “That’s a bad analogy. Don’t say fudge. Say something else.”
“I think it’s probably fair to say that more straight men would behave that way if they could,” says Prowse.
Petras concurs. “It’s a stereotype that straight people don’t behave this way because a lot of straight people do behave this way. There’s something missing and what’s missing is spirit. When spirit is missing you find something to take its place. It’s like classic Tennessee Williams. All [his] characters are so fucked up.”
So what attracted the director to the play?
“I really liked the humour in it,” says Prowse. “There’s some very, very funny stuff. But at the same time there are some heartwrenching, heartbreaking moments-or at least I hope there are, because that’s our goal.
“I find it interesting that it’s a story about people that essentially choose to love someone that they can’t have. On some conscious level they realize that in that kind of relationship they can’t have the person and they can’t lose them either. And I think that’s the tragedy of any long-term relationship–it’s that it will end one way or the other. Eventually someone dies or leaves. A relationship, once started, will end. But if it never really started, it goes on forever and you can learn to live with it and you don’t have to deal with the shock and the sadness of a relationship ending if it doesn’t really start.”
Petras says that people should see The Maiden’s Prayer “because they will find themselves in this play. Gay men, especially, are going to say, ‘There’s me and there’s my best friend and there’s my fucked-up relationship with my ex-boyfriend or that guy that I’ve been in love with forever and ever that I can’t have. We all have that regardless of how good looking we are or how hot we are or whatever. You see those guys that you think, ‘Oh, he must be able to get anybody he wants.’ That perfect supermodel guy has got somebody somewhere that he is in love with and wants to be with and can’t, whether he’s sleeping with them or not. He can’t really make that connection.”