New York-based playwright/psychiatrist Guy Fredrick Glass tackles the controversial subject of gay conversion therapy in a tale of love, liberation and opera. John Henry Davis directs the world premiere of “Doctor Anonymous,” opening March 29, 2014 at the Zephyr Theatre.
“Doctor. Anonymous” is set in 1972 Philadelphia at the dawn of the nascent Gay Pride movement, and against the backdrop of two important historical events: the mayoral campaign of Frank Rizzo, the city’s police chief who routinely led Saturday night “round-ups” of homosexuals, and the American Psychiatric Association’s 1972 convention.
Matt Crabtree stars as Dr. Matthew Goldstein, a psychiatrist struggling to come to grips with his own sexuality during a time when being openly gay would end his career. Barry Pearl is the straight doctor determined to “save” Matthew from himself. Kevin Held plays Jake, the gay rights activist who becomes Matthew’s lover, while Christopher Frontiero is John, Matthew’s opera-loving best friend. Richard Sabine is “self-hating” gay patient Dudek, and Jonathan Torres rounds out the cast as a young gay activist.
“It’s hard for many of us to remember a time when it was not okay for two men to walk down the street holding hands or to express their feelings for one another,” says Glass. “Yet it’s important to remind people that there’s still a faction out there who believe in the environmental aspect, that being gay is a choice.”
“It’s about having to pretend to be something you’re not,” adds Davis. “Wearing that mask day in and day out, and what that does to you inside. But it’s also a passionate love story, sometimes almost operatic in style.”
Although a work of fiction, “Doctor Anonymous” was inspired by a watershed moment in LGBT history when Dr. John E. Fryer, wearing a mask and using a voice-distorting microphone, declared himself a homosexual in front of the 1972 APA convention – leading to the decision to de-list homosexuality as a mental illness in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It took another 40 years for California to become the first state to ban gay conversion therapy in 2012. Today, as other states debate similar measures, and despite the support of the APA, efforts to change sexual orientation continue to be practiced in the U.S. and abroad.
“Doctor Anonymous” opens on Saturday, March 29, continuing through May 4 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. Two low-priced preview performances take place on Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28 at 8 p.m. General admission is $25; previews are $15. Call (323) 960-7724 or www.plays411.com/doctor.
The Zephyr Theatre is located at 7456 Melrose Ave. in Los Angeles (between Fairfax and La Brea).