Young theater dancer and secret playwright Sean Singleton and streetwise Gil Johnson struggle from their separate circumstances to rise from under the domination of three larger-than-life unfettered predatory Broadway legends during the staging of a major production at Washington, D.C.'s, renowned regional Arena Stage theater. In a twisting tale of lies, bravado, and sexual exploitation, told from the differing and separate misunderstandings and perceptions of Sean and Gil, the two spar in their own dance of denial and attraction in a rush to free themselves and find new love and validation in a final curtain act of defiance.
Warnings: This title contains graphic language and m/m sex.
Word Count: 30,690
“Defiance?” Cersenka questioned, speaking up for the first time since they had opened the manuscript and thus answering the question that had been in my mind. How strange. Not an ending really, but seemingly more the beginning of a new cycle.
“Precisely,” Masters said, his voice warm with triumph, proud of his work and of the surprise it engendered. “The unexpected. I always intended the unexpected at this point. I know what everyone was thinking, what they were thinking the final title would be . . .”
“Death,” Cersenka whispered in a ghostly voice, stopping everyone in the room in their tracks, causing them to hold their breath, the heavy silence punctuated by the hacking cough Cersenka devolved to after interjecting that word into the air.
After a minute, Masters sniffed and said, “Yes, well. I know what people thought. But I always thought that would be a bit too obvious.”
“Obvious, yes,” Cersenka said. “But it’s there, isn’t it? It’s there in all of them, all of the ‘D’ plays, lurking in the background, pointing to it, leading up to it. Death.”
Masters looked radiant, accepting what Cersenka was saying as an accolade to his talent. But then he said enigmatically. “Perhaps yes, perhaps no. You have not read this last script.”
“Yes, well, perhaps it is time that I did,” Cersenka said. “We have not that much time to stage an entirely new production. I too assumed it would be a revival. Something that could be slightly reshaped, brought into the current decade. But a whole new play . . .”
He paused momentarily to let the task that was before them sink in; they were all stage professionals of the first rank. They all knew a new production for the Arena Stage, given the time frame, would be a Herculean task. But all three, including Cersenka, had been infused with excitement from the moment they realized that they quite possibly had an earth-shattering event in their grasp.
“It has dancing scenes, this last play?” Cersenka then asked, obviously not yet fully believing. “And a score? It already has a score?”
“Yes, of course,” Masters answered in a slightly wounded voice. “That has been key through the series. They all have dance sequences. And, yes, certainly it has a score—but you will be able to recognize themes in the score from the earlier six plays. That is purposeful. This is the last, the linking play. The glue to my masterpiece.”
“Then I best get started,” Cersenka said. “If you gentlemen will excuse me. I have a score to review and dancers to hire.” He rose, apparently in some pain, took up an ivory-headed cane, and started to move toward the double doors at the other end of the shadowed room. He stopped, though, beside the chair of Masters’s assistant and took the surprised young man’s chin in his hand and lifted his face.
“You are a dancer, are you not?” I was amazed that Cersenka had reached the same conclusion as I had about the young man. I had not noticed that he had realized the youth was in the room at all.
The beautiful young man cleared his throat in embarrassment at the attention paid him, and answered in a small, melodic voice. “I was, yes . . . I was. But not now. Now I work for Mr. Masters.”
“Perhaps, though. Just perhaps you still want to dance,” Cersenka said. “Yes, I see it in your face. Perhaps, just perhaps I will see you at the auditions.”
Even more embarrassed now, the young man moved his chin from Cersenka’s gentle grip, and his eyes returned to the back of his boss—I could just as easily say “of his master.”
“I don’t think—”
“Well, perhaps,” Cersenka repeated, and then he turned and tapped his way, slowly, yet gracefully straight for the exit.