One is a musical that has seduced audiences since its debut. The other is a fairly new drama that is just starting to make its way around the country. Both “Miss Saigon” and “Warplay” are getting local productions and seem bound to attract LGBTQ audiences.
As of last year, “Miss Saigon” is Broadway’s thirteenth longest-running show. When it opened on Broadway in 1991 it ran through 2001. It’s based, of course, on the opera “Madame Butterfly,” set in 1970s Saigon and telling the story of a relationship between a United States Marine and a young girl from South Vietnam.
Besides being one of the show’s Vietnamese language consultants, Matthew Overberg is part of the ensemble of the touring version, hitting the ATL next week. He has been with the musical since August 2018 and is onstage for what he calls about 60 percent of the time. He also appeared in “The King and I” in Australia for a year but he says “Miss Saigon” is the heaviest ensemble piece he’s been part of.
He feels there are several reasons audiences have such an affinity for the musical. “The appeal is the score,” he says. “We don’t get scores like this anymore for musicals. It’s grand and epic and too expensive to do these days. It’s a spectacle. People love the technical aspects and the great love story. It is also applicable to today’s society with refugees and war and people’s love for their country. A lot of its themes are applicable.”
The actor is gay and if he had the choice, he’d gravitate to work that is more LGBTQ themed. As an Asian gay male, though, he realizes – sadly – that his choices can be limited. He’s hardly complaining, though. He did get to appear in a recent revival of “Cabaret” which he referred to as a “sexy, scandalous show –- with a leading man who is a bit androgynous.”
The new drama “Warplay” – which just opened at Out Front Theatre Company – is penned by JC Lee, a playwright who has also written for HBO’s “Looking” and “Girls” and ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder.” “Warplay” is directed by Justin Kalin, the company’s associate artistic director, and is only in its third full production.
The play is a retelling of the myth of Achilles, a Trojan War hero, and his close friendship with Patroclus. Kalin was somewhat familiar with the story and got to re-approach it and re-learn it here from the playwright’s eyes. “It takes a lot of the elements of the original story and re-contextualizes them in a modern way,” he says.
The two-character are young men on the brink of adulthood, navigating their relationship and their expectations. “It’s a modern meditation on masculinity,” says Kalin. “It examines what was the archetype of it in ancient Greece; what were the pillars? How do all of these things persist today? These men were great heroes from long ago but have we made any changes to the archetype of masculinity over the past few millennia? There are a lot of plays that deal with homosexuality and romance and masculinity but we have not come across a lot of shows that explicitly look at the junction point between masculinity and same-sex relationships – and the friction it creates. We place masculinity on this pedestal – it’s so above everything else – but it robs men of the ability to be intimate with each other.”