|Jordan Tomenga and Jeff Swearingen in THE DOWN LOW|
by Arnold Wayne Jones | May 15, 2015 | DallasVoice.com
Simon (Jeff Swearingen), a fussy high school theater teacher gets a strange phone call from his colleague Aaron (Danny O’Connor), the school’s health teacher. Why has he been beckoned so suddenly? Will they finally become friends? Simon kind of answers the question himself when he asks Aaron: “Why is a naked African-American man dead in your bedroom?”
And so begins 85 minutes of dark-humored, often poor-taste (but hysterically funny) jokes about gay experimentation, inappropriate parent-teacher relationships, recreational drug use and the Polish secret police. Danny O’Connor also wrote this one-act comedy, called The Down Low, which is performed in front of a tiny 15 audience members in the home of one of the actors in East Dallas (it’s on Mockingbird Lane between Greenville Avenue and Skillman Street). There aren’t many seats available, if any still are in the two remaining performances, but do what you can to snag a few and see grassroots theater artistry that’s so alive, you can overlook how much it’s really about death.
The plot is wackadoo but strangely believable. Aaron wants to experiment with giving a blow job (“I’m not gay!” he insists, despite all evidence to the contrary) and things go horribly wrong, necessitating he seek help from Simon, the only gay guy he knows. (The implication: Gays are used to disposing of tricks who die brutally; it usually happens between gym and brunch, I suppose.) Aaron’s roommate Jack (Jordan Tomenga), a male nurse, and Jack’s FWB Kassia (Robin Clayton) also get dragged into the plot, which takes more turns than a mountain road before becoming not just dark, but outright menacing.
There’s much to love in the show, from the intimacy (the whole from of the house is utilized by directed Brian Grunkowski) to the off-handed line-readings (Swearingen and O’Connor are two of the best at what they do) to the deadpan dialogue that sneaks up on you with its sick humor. But say too much and you’ll ruin it. Suffice it to say, it goes where it has to, and takes you along for the ride. By the end, you’re more co-conspirator than watcher. That’s an exciting way to consume theater.