Nude Awakening 

A few minutes of full-frontal bare-nakedness helps college coed channel his pansexuality.

As Cleveland's theatrical community continues "the naked year" on stages throughout Northeast Ohio, the Convergence-Continuum experimental drama ensemble sheds its threads for three minutes of onstage nudity in its latest dramedy, In the Garden. That's why artistic director Clyde Simon has slapped a "mature content" label on the production. "People seem to take it in stride, if it's not done exploitatively," he says. "Just the whole bed-hopping bisexual stuff is for the more liberal-minded."Norman Allen's script explores the interwoven lives of a charismatic Adonis named Gabe, his philosophy professor, the teacher's fashionista wife and BFF, and a female coed. Originally written for Virginia's edgy Signature Theatre in 2001, the dialogue deals with Gabe's erotic and spiritual challenges as he sorts out his gender identity. Friends ask, "Who are you?" to which Gabe replies, "Who do you want me to be?" "Is he a bright student, or is he some guy who's on a spiritual journey? I think he's everything to everybody," says Simon. "He's searching, like a lot of 18-year-olds. But he takes it beyond that." The cast includes seasoned Convergence thesps Lucy Bredeson-Smith and Arthur Grothe. Fellow cast members Laurel Johnson and Vincent Depaul are making their debuts with the troupe. As Gabe, Tony Thai scores the honor of stripping to his birthday suit for the show. That alone made Simon interested in the play. "I read the synopsis, and I said I wanted to read this play. Then, when I read it, I said I wanna do this play," says Simon. "It gets philosophical, deep, and spiritual. And raunchy too. Now, there's a mix for you."The production is the troupe's second of five shows in its Cross the Threshold season, so called because its 42-seat theater, the Liminis, is taken from a Greek term for threshold. And the company is on a mission to make audience members feel they're part of the cast. "We're a very intimate space. When you cross the threshold, you enter into the play itself. You're right up in with the actors into that world of the play. And sometimes, the characters are talking right to you," says Simon. "You leave your everyday reality because you're really immersed in it." The curtain goes up at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, through Saturday, June 28, at the Liminis, 2438 Scranton Road. Tickets are $12 to $15. Call 216-687-0074 or visit www.convergence-continuum.org.
Thursdays-Saturdays. Starts: May 30. Continues through June 28, 2008

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