Two gay plays take the stage at Shubin

Springtime is going to be quite busy for Rich Rubin.

The out director has taken on two gay-themed plays, “Passing By” and “Show/Tell,” presented by Quince Productions and running almost back-to-back from next week until early May at Shubin Theatre.

“It’s incredibly challenging,” Rubin said. “Because ‘Show/Tell’ is actually two short plays, I’m directing three at once. Given that the atmosphere of the two plays is so different from the light comedy of ‘Passing By,’ it really required an adjustment of mindset, sometime almost instantaneously, between rehearsals for the two different plays.”

Rubin said that although he didn’t set out to direct two plays at once, he decided it was worth the extra effort.

“It just happened,” he said. “I decided to do ‘Passing By.’ Then I thought, I’ve got this theater; why not see if I can put another project in there? I had directed the world premiere of ‘Show’ as part of a series of short gay plays that I did in New York, and I still love that play every bit as much as when I first directed. I knew it had this companion piece, ‘Tell,’ and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to showcase these plays that I think are so wonderful and powerful.”

“Passing By,” written by Martin Sherman, is set in the 1970s and tells the story of two men who meet in a movie theater and end up spending not just the night, but also an unexpected amount of time, together.

Rubin said the time period is especially important to the story.

“Some of the events either would have not happened or have a very significant difference in the post-AIDS era,” he said. “So when I looked at ‘Passing By,’ which was written back then, there was nothing we could do with it except play it as it was in the 1970s. The larger issues of love and relationships haven’t changed. Anybody my age who experienced the ’70s will have an immediate resonance with it, and anybody who was too young to have experienced the ’70s will get a history lesson.”

“Show/Tell” is a darker piece, set in the 1990s and the modern day, with one story about a priest with AIDS struggling with questions of faith, and the other tale about a hospital visitor who describes/reenacts his first sexual encounter for his sick friend.

“They’re two completely different, self-contained plays with different cast and different settings,” described Rubin. “They’re both concerned with how, in the age of AIDS, can we bring ourselves to life.”

On most nights during the run, both plays will be performed back to back. But Rubin said he doesn’t expect most audiences to try and catch both in a sitting.

“That’s really up to them. To some degree the audience will be the same for both shows, and to some degree it’ll be a little different. It’s an awful lot of emotion for an audience to go through to see this whole evening in one night. ‘Passing By’ is a love story/light comedy, but it’s not without its emotional moments. If [audiences] are prepared, it’s a hell of a ride to see the whole thing in one evening. There’s 45 minutes between the end of ‘Passing By’ and the beginning of ‘Show/Tell.’ So they have time to go get a drink and fortify themselves.”

In keeping with Quince Productions’ tradition, all three Sunday-evening performances of “Passing By” will benefit community groups. The April 19 show will benefit the Philadelphia chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, April 26 will benefit Represented Theatre Company and May 3 will benefit AIDS Fund Philadelphia.

The benefit for the NLGJA is especially important for Rubin, as he is a member of the organization.

“The chapter is just starting to push itself into an active phase again, and you can’t do anything these days without money,” he said. “I’m hoping that by helping in my small way to put a little more money in their coffers, an organization that is very important can start to become a little more active than they have been recently. We need all the help we can get. Gay journalists, as well as other journalists, are fighting for page space to cover the things that they consider important or fighting for airtime in other media. I wouldn’t say it had a direct effect, but I think the current economic climate makes things more difficult for all nonprofit groups.”

“Passing By” will run Wednesdays through Sundays, April 17-May 3, and “Show/Tell” will be performed Fridays and Saturdays, April 18-May 2, at Shubin Theatre, 407 Bainbridge St. For more information or tickets, visit or call (215) 627-1088.

Larry Nichols can be reached at [email protected].