The 5 Guys Chillin’ and Confession Tour
Five guys come together one evening to ‘chill’. A term, much like many in this short one act play, that are well known in the London gay scene (but not so well known to me – so thank you for the glossary given out with the program). These five are here not only to do drugs and make out; sex being an option but not the main focus (unlike a sex party, one of the many things I learned from this play). More importantly, they are also here to confess all their dark uncomfortable stories to each other. Maybe because the others are too high on mephedrone, G, and/or crystal meth to take it in as seriously as we, the audience, do. Or maybe it’s just what happens when the drugs start to flow with such abandonment.
This is an easy free flowing evening of sex and drug talk, but underneath, this confessional play is something more disturbing and fraught. It’s a dissertation on intimacy and escape in the new gay world order. And how drugs are playing a major role, maybe a lead role, in not just this play, but how gay men play in general.
The chem party already has started when the doors of the theatre open. We walk in and instantly become flies on the wall to a young man and a ‘friend’ snorting and chatting in a living room surrounded by drug and sex paraphernalia. The house lights are still on, but the guys, obviously already pretty high, engage privately with one another. Pretty soon others arrive, laughing and carrying on. The party has begun. All are getting high and stripping down. Travis in London, in an early review on frontmezzjunkies https://frontmezzjunkies.com/2015/10/15/travis-in-london-5-guys-chillin/), wrote about the immersiveness of the London production, and I wish the production had found a similar pub-like environmental space to hold this party in, as I think the setup at the Soho Playhouse distanced ourselves from feeling a part of the scene. It felt a big voyeuristic and separate.
Rick Yale, Cesare Scarpone, Elliot Hadley, Richard De Lisle, and Adi Chugh are the five actors portraying the five guys who are here to ‘chill’. To varying degrees, these five actors do a great job bringing us in and connecting us to their struggles and pain. Their stories are both confessional and bonding, getting darker and more disturbing as the night goes on. Each character has moments of raw vulnerability, which is both affecting and upsetting to be witness to. Sometimes the connective tissue in the writing seems forced and awkward but my guess is that in these moments of extreme ‘highs’, the dialogue between these guys would disintegrate and become very disjointed; not as linear as we are used to in sober life. ‘Chems’ are the bridge to a exposed place of (artificial) honesty and intimacy, but the reality lies more in an escape from the pain of aloneness and anxious day to day life.
Written from interviews of London gay men found through Grindr and other social media/hookup apps, who were active in the chill and sex party scene, the stories being told in writer/director Peter Darney’s 5 Guys Chillin’ sometimes have an awkwardness in the scenario but a realness in the telling. As a real world psychotherapist who specializes in addiction and gay men, the difficulty of connectivity and intimacy are the overwhelming ingredients/components that lead many towards addiction and chem drug use. This play does a great job in showing us both the highs and the lows. The last few moments of this confessional piece leaves us feeling awkward and a bit dirty as if we had somehow participated in the debauchery. The party continues for some, but the show is over. Their pain and aloneness is exposed, left hanging in front of us to see, as the house lights come up. We don’t know if we should applaud this final scene or just quietly sneak out of the party. So we clap, and we leave, tip toeing out, leaving the party feeling worn out and a bit hung over. Just like these party boys will soon enough.