Reading Lips: Synopsis


           "Am I gay man who happens to                         be deaf?  Or a Deaf man who
                  just happens to be gay?"


That is the dilemma Bryan McKenzie faces on the eve of his 40th birthday.  It seems that everyone else has the answer.  His father, George, a well-meaning blue collar worker insists that being deaf is more important. 
 
                               GEORGE
Oh, I’m perfectly okay with your being a ho-ho-homo–
 
                               BRYAN
Try “gay,” Dad. 
 
But his best friend insists that being gay has had more impact.
 
                               PHILLIP
You can’t expect to get over being gay, deaf and Catholic all in the same lifetime.
 
Nebraska.  The 1970’s.  At age nine, Bryan goes off to a school for the Deaf and meets Phillip, who prods him to be a rebel.  By age 20, estranged from his family, Bryan join Phillip in New York, wildly excited by the boundless opportunities that lay before them. 
 
But in Act II, they are on divergent paths: Phillip is a successful lawyer, while Bryan, vaguely pursuing acting and encountering resistance.  
 
At the play’s climax, each is challenged by a crisis caused by his hearing loss.  Phillip is unable to overcome his own prejudices.  But Bryan sees his hearing loss in a new light:

                              BRYAN
“It’s part of my culture, like Stonewall.” 
 
In the final scene, he comes downstage as he was at the play’s beginning:
 
                             BRYAN
“So these two men still love me and they still drive me crazy.  I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.  Nothing’s changed, only now I’m 40.  Haven’t I learned anything at all?
        (pause) 
Yes, I have: I am a Deaf gay man.” 
Staging Requirements
Reading Lips is presented on a bare stage with simple props that evoke settings ranging from a small Midwest town to an Upper East Side dinner party.  
  • Two acts, with scenes that flow into each other.  
  • Casting requirements: Four men and one woman (one man and the woman play multiple roles)
  • Age ranges: 
    Two men – late 20’s to 30’s. 
    Two men – late 40’s to 60’s
    One woman – 30’s to 50’s.