Steve review – an ode to the lives and loves of Broadway fanatics | Stage

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The intimate auditorium of the Seven Dials Playhouse becomes the Manhattan branch of the theatre-crowd hangout Joe Allen, complete with audience members seated at tables on stage, for Mark Gerrard’s ode to the lives and loves of Broadway fanatics. Steve will be catnip for anyone who ever used show tunes to cope with – or distract from – a crisis. “What sort of God could allow the movie version of Mame?” demands Steven (David Ames), over-the-hill at 47 as he downs vodka stingers à la The Ladies Who Lunch.

Namesakes abound, from his possibly unfaithful partner, Stephen (Joe Aaron Reid), with whom he has a child, to the waiter Esteban (Nico Conde), who materialises to dispense wisdom and twinkle charmingly. A framed picture of another Stephen – the late Sondheim – watches over them like a guardian angel; this production is dedicated to him, and his lyrics are the lingua franca of a group that extends to Carrie (Jenna Russell), who is delighted to find that her cancer blog has been optioned by Hollywood.

The six-strong ensemble hit convincing notes of strain and struggle as the friends doing what they can to pretend they are still young: sleeping around, sexting, conducting an experiment in throuple-dom. Aside from one clunky scene showing Stephen juggling multiple texts and phone calls, the staging and writing zing nicely. It’s just a pity that Gerrard never quite breaches his characters’ defences as, say, Terrence McNally might have done. Andrew Keates’s production is smooth: a rotating disc within the stage provides views of the action from every angle during Steven’s fraught birthday dinner. Like the play, it goes around in circles entertainingly even if it never quite arrives anywhere new.



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