Review: “All My Love, Kate” at the Fresh Fruit Festival

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Anthony J. Piccione

  • New York Theatre Critic

It’s easy to forget that it was only recently – toward the beginning of this decade – that openly gay and lesbian soldiers were allowed to serve in the U.S. military, not to mention how the overall cultural shift in favor of LGBTQ rights is a relatively recent shift that largely began in the 21st century. So when looking back on World War II, when homosexuality was still largely seen by the broader public as if it were some sort of sickness, it’s worth wondering what it must have been like to be a gay, closeted soldier during that pivotal moment in history, and that’s exactly what the new play All My Love, Kate – written and directed by Joe Breen – explores at this year’s Fresh Fruit Festival.

Originally presented last year as part of Primary Stages’ ESPA Drills Off-Broadway reading series, the play tells the story focuses on a young, gay man – with flashbacks detailing his life back home – fighting alongside his heterosexual friend in World War II, only to be captured by the Japanese, where he ultimately sees that friendship put to the test, reflects on what is going on in his life back home, and also makes another, more unlikely friendship with someone else, along the way.

I have to be honest and say that with this play, it was very difficult for me to keep my attention focused on all that was going on. While there were a few glimpses of poignancy toward the second half of the play, there wasn’t much beyond the main concept behind the play that kept me interested, and along the way, and I failed to connect or gain interest in any of the characters throughout. By the end of the play, I wasn’t left with the feeling that it was poorly written, per se, but rather lacking a sense of energy or authenticity that dramas like this often require, in order to succeed. It’s a shame, really, as the general idea behind the play is a good one.

The cast of this play consists of Brendan Cataldo as Jack, Matt W. Cody as Danny, Kazuhiro Imafuku as Toshio, Sarah Matteucci as Betty, Chris McFarland as Tom, and Jill Melanie Wirth as Margaret. While each of them turned in fine and respectable performances, none of them were particularly outstanding. There just wasn’t any one moment in the play where I stopped, and thought that that was an especially captivating and emotionally engaging moment, even during some of the more intense, climactic moments of the play. Whether that’s a matter of the play’s delivery, or instead the writing itself, or even the way it was directed, is less certain. Indeed, playwrights who choose to direct their own work often fall short, in terms their ability to fully bring out the raw passion waiting to be brought out in the actors by a director, when they choose to direct their own work. I won’t go too far in making assumptions, but I don’t think it’d be unreasonable to think that’s the case, with this production.

While it might not have been the strongest outing I’ve seen, among a wide variety of fine plays tackling similar themes this year, I will say that it is nonetheless a valiant effort from Mr. Breen and a decently well-written period piece, with a fair amount of poignant moments, even if the performance itself felt dull and lacking in emotional depth. I would be intrigued to see more works from this playwright in the future, as this play did show a fair amount of potential, and I don’t expect there to be any shortage of opportunities to further explore relevant issues in historical contexts – as this play seemed to set out to do – in the future…

“All My Love, Kate” ended its run at the Wild Project as part of the Fresh Fruit Festival on July 15th.