"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. At first it seems that everyone else has the answer. His father, George, a well-meaning blue collar worker insists that being deaf is more important.
I’m perfectly okay with your being a ho-ho-homo–
Try “gay” Dad.
But his best friend, Phillip, insists that being gay has had more impact.
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 Rosewood, a school for the deaf. There he meets Phillip, who is already a rebel, challenging authority everywhere. Indeed, he is teaching himself ASL, an anathema to the conservative headmaster.
Bryan, always introspective, poses this question:
Is there anything you wouldn’t give up if you could hear?
They decide it would be easy to sacrifice a finger, or being American or even an eye (“It’s only one eye. You just won’t enjoy 3-D movies as much”). Their hearing loss remains the defining experience of their lives.
At the age of 20, now estranged from his father, Bryan moves to New York. As Act I ends, he and Phillip are openly gay (never lovers) and wildly excited by the boundless opportunities that lay before them.
As Act II begins, the men (now in their 30’s) are on different trajectories: Phillip is a lawyer, while Bryan is an office assistant, vaguely pursuing acting and school.
You’re the only student I know who’s up for tenure.
Bryan tries to settle on a career and mend the rift with this father. Phillip, although financially successful and finally in love, faces his deteriorating hearing.
At the play’s climax, their hearing issues become critical: Bryan loses an important acting internship and worries that he will never find a career. Phillip is being forced into an administrative position at his firm. Bryan proposes they take the sign language classes they were raised to abhor.