Arts, Reviews

Fringe 2019: The 3AM Subtext

The Fringe program described writer Matthew Stepanic’s first play as being about casual hook-ups, conversion therapy, and ghost stories. These seemed like material for two or three different plays, but playwright and co-director Stepanic and co-director Olivia Latta pulled it all together.

The 3AM Subtext begins as two young men (Landon Nesbett and Austin White) who had hooked up the night before wake up in the middle of the night. Unable to return to sleep and unwilling to end their tryst, they tell each other ghost stories.

Some of the stories are about spooky experiences, but their remembrances also allow them to contemplate the supernatural metaphorical hauntings. One man is haunted by the memory of a first love who was first lost spiritually to conversion therapy, and then bodily to suicide.

They also spoke of the loneliness that sets in after dates that go poorly, or that go well yet meaninglessly, or that never actually materialize. They talked about being “ghosted” on social media, akin to supernatural haunting. Both are about an absence felt.

Both characters had their reasons for avoiding long-term commitments, but found solace in each other. Their highest compliment is: “I want you to haunt me.”

The show could not be held over because one of the actors (Nesbett) was moving to Toronto for theatre school. I hope the crew has a chance to stage The 3AM Subtext again. The political content is timely (the City of Edmonton just banned conversion therapy), and the emotional content is timeless.

Links to the 2019 Fringe program have now expired, so here are links to Glass Buffalo, which presented the production, and playwright Matthew Stepanic.

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