The Road to Recovery Mode...
by Anthony Chase
It’s a contemporary love story. Boy meets boy on internet. Relationship is tumultuous, but just won’t end.
Matthew Crehan Higgins, who has that Generation Y sense of privacy, has often used the details of his personal life as fodder for theatrical performances. In plays like Confessions and The Casual Sex Diary, he has plumbed nearly every permutation of growing up gay in Western New York.
Crehan Higgins first used the story of his four-year relationship and breakup with a bisexual man as the basis for a monologue at Buffalo’s Gallery 464, intending, eventually, to develop the material into a stage play. Joey Bucheker recorded the March 2010 performance, which was then broadcast as part of the popular gay comedy podcast, Cocktails and Cream Puffs; this was heard worldwide. (Cocktails and Creampuffs, found at www.cocktailsandcreampuffs.com is one of the top 35 GLBT podcasts on iTunes, and stars Crehan Higgins, Bucheker, and Marc Sacco.) The piece was popular, but Higgins went on to other projects instead.
Like the relationship that inspired it, however, the story would not die.
Playwright Matthew Burlingame of the Lambda Players in Sacramento, California, heard the performance, and in November, asked Crehan Higgins for permission to develop the story into a play himself. The completed six-character play opened in California in January 2011, to popular and critical acclaim. Now Buffalo United Artists will present Recovery Mode at their West Chippewa Street theater in Buffalo, opening this weekend. Higgins and Sacco will play fictionalized versions of themselves, directed by Bucheker.
During the process of scripting, Crehan Higgins and the playwright corresponded, but did not meet until Crehan Higgins traveled to Sacramento to see the play. Actually, however, meeting the playwright was easy, compared to meeting the actor who was to portray him on stage.
“Michael Hedges, who played me in Sacramento, and I were both a little bit intimidated to meet each other,” says Higgins. “Even though he wasn’t exactly like me, he had the total essence of what my experience was like at the time the show portrays. He hit every up and down with a very real emotional clarity. And he could also talk really fast…which I think is pretty important for a person portraying me.”
The production itself, however, was less of an issue than experiencing an episode from his life in the presence of an audience.
“The second time I saw the show in Sacramento,” says Higgins, “the man sitting next to me turned to me at intermission and said: ‘What’s wrong with that guy?’ Experiencing your real life in a room full of strangers? Totally surreal!”
A central issue of the play is the act of coming to terms with one’s life and one’s choices through therapy. Crehan Higgins explains that this experience was mirrored by the development of the play itself.
“The reason I didn’t go through with writing Recovery Mode myself is that I was intimidated by it,” he says. “While Matt Burlingame was writing the adaptation he had a lot of questions and it was a bit like going through therapy all over again, though the questions were far more graphic and personal.”
Having been through the ordeal and purging of seeing himself portrayed on stage, why in the world would Crehan Higgins now elect to take on the role himself—and in his hometown—undoubtedly with the famously extended Higgins’ family in attendance.
“As soon as I saw it in California, I knew I had to do it,” he says. “The most rewarding thing about playing someone else’s vision of me is that reliving all of these events through someone else’s eyes has given me a greater peace about it. I always knew that there were two sides to every story, but playing someone else’s interpretation of it has finally made me really accept and understand the role I played in the dysfunction of that relationship. And that’s incredibly freeing.”
In addition to Crehan Higgins and Sacco, the Recovery Mode cast features the talents of Gary Andrews, Sean Murphy, and Victoria Perez.
Those interested to see, identify with, or judge Matthew Crehan Higgins’ (fictionalized) life experience, can do so at BUA Theater (119 West Chippewa Street), June 25 through July 17, Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm, with a special performance on Friday, July 1, at 8pm.
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