What: Homos, or Everyone in America (part of the Pride Festival)
Where & when: Loft at Q Theatre, tomorrow – Saturday, February 16
It's been 15 months since Shane Bosher directed a play which must surely seem like a lifetime to someone who has staged several of Auckland's most memorable productions and has lived and breathed theatre since he was a teen.
Then again, the former Silo Theatre artistic director hasn't been far from the stage. He's written an Adam-award winning play, Everything After, been teaching at The Actors' Program and UNITEC and advising New Zealand and Australian arts' companies about the old chestnut of getting art and commerce to meet.
But Bosher says he needed to "create a piece of work" and US playwright Jordan Seavey's Homos, or Everyone in America was hovering in his mind. Read the synopsis and a handful of reviews and you can see why.
If there's anything that can be called a "Shane Bosher play", this could fit the bill. It's urbane and contemporary, challenging and provocative, possibly incendiary in its comedy, romantic but not saccharine and determined to get us talking about our attitudes, emotions and prejudices – rather than where we put the car keys – as we leave the theatre.
New York Magazine declared a 2016 production to be "a blisteringly fine and hilarious play with devastatingly pointed intelligence" and named it as one its top ten theatre events of that year.
Two men meet on a first date at a bar embarking on a relationship around the time historic change is brewing. In this case, it's marriage equality which leads to discussions about what it means to live today as a gay man. Do you follow a heteronormative route and opt for a monogamous relationship – and does monogamy equal monotony - or do you choose something less conventional?
Bosher likes the play's politics and that it's not about the trials and tribulations of coming out or living in the middle of an extraordinary crisis like an epidemic.
"I think Jordon [the playwright] has deliberately and provocatively titled the play with, 'do you choose to be a 'homo' or do you choose to be like everyone else in America' and what does everybody else in America think really, deep down, of the homo…"
Sexuality, identity, America, moments of change, it's also tempting to see Homos, or Everyone in America as a sort of progression from Bosher's triumphant direction of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize winning Angels in America in 2014.
He says the circumstances of the plays are different but agrees both toy with the idea that the line between the personal and the political is a thin one. Homos, or Everyone in America also speculates on how far gay rights – liberation – has really come.
"I think that's one of the central arguments that we have advanced quite significantly in terms of laws being passed and the idea of liberation being acted upon but whilst laws can change, hearts and minds don't necessarily," Bosher says, adding that truly fundamental change takes long and hard work.
"You know, we're living in a time where teenagers come out online or at school assemblies which would have been completely unheard of in the 80s or the 60s or whatever decade but it would be kind of foolish to think that that is not without some cost to that person and that is still a political act and we are generations away from that act as a state of complete normality…"
Bosher has long advocated for the theatre as a place where conversations about contemporary mores and moralities can occur. After more than a year away from the frontline, does he still believe it's the place we can go to thrash out the tricky stuff of life?
Absolutely, he says.
"I still feel really strongly that theatre can act as a meeting place for extraordinary conversation and necessary conversation so I still believe in the primacy of story-telling within that space and I think that audiences are … They're looking for that golden ticket of a piece of work to engage with but I think there have been lots of advancements in how people want to engage over the last wee while.
"I think there's so much content at the moment; there's five shows every week and there's so much distraction – and by distraction I don't mean in terms of the work, I mean in terms of life and other media like a 24-hour news cycle which is reasonably salacious and difficult and blackly entertaining – so I think audience are fatigued at the moment…"
How will Homos, or Everyone in America lift us out of the malaise?
"I don't know the answer to that question! I think one of the things I love about the play is that while it undertakes necessary and vital conversations with the audience, it's engine, I suppose, is comedy and it's got a wicked playful sense of irony and humour in it."
•Jack Buchanan, Ava Diakhaby, Arlo Green and Harry McNaughton star in Homos, or Everyone in America.