What do Russell Crowe and Ryan Tasker have in common? It could be "The Sum of Us"!

Theatre “Q”, based in Berkeley, California, is presenting a very thought-provoking father - son drama called “The Sum of Us” by David Stevens in the Knights Stage III Theater in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.

Under the artful direction of Dale Albright, this poignant, almost too effusively sentimental story of a father wanting his son to find a life long mate, is heartwarming and at the same time somewhat overprotective. The story takes place in Sydney, Australia, a haven for male masculinity. In this case, the father, Harry Mitchell (Peter Cieply) who has lost his wife of many years, a companion whom he loved deeply, has a son, Jeff (Ryan Tasker), who is homosexual. Harry has known for some time that his son is gay and has come to accept it fully. While he doesn’t quite consider it as something he fully understands, nor is it something he would want for himself, he believes that it is just the way life can sometimes turn out, not something that his son has chosen to embrace over a heterosexual lifestyle. In addition, Harry’s grandmother had lived in a homosexual lifestyle for many years with a woman she met and partnered with after her husband (Harry’s grandfather) died. With this background, Harry is more understanding of his son’s sexual orientation and that while he would have preferred that his son find a woman who could provide him with grandchildren, he accepts that having a son who can find a happy and fulfilling life with a male partner is more important than a life without a stable, loving relationship.

The story is very reminiscent of some mother – daughter relationships, where the mother is ardently seeking to help her daughter find the right man, or a husband, fearing that she will miss out if mother doesn’t help or provide guidance, because the daughter just hasn’t been very successful on her own. Harry had a very wonderful married life and following his wife’s death when his son was 10 years old and he has had to fulfill the role of both father and mother. Jeff is a very good son, quiet, loving, but very insecure in relationships as a former lover left him and he felt crushed and rejected for a long time. Jeff is not into flamboyant, partying relationships, just wanting a partner to share life’s many wonderful experiences with, a permanent type of relationship.

This relationship evolves as Jeff and his father, Harry, explore new relationships in their search for love in their lives while including each other in the process. Conflicts occur along the way with their new potential love interests. Harry is afraid to reveal to his girlfriend, Joyce (Sylvia Kratins) that his son is gay, not knowing how she will respond. Jeff’s new friend, Greg (Scott Cox), has not admitted to his family that he is gay, and is somewhat intimidated by Jeff’s overly supportive father, feeling that this is just not natural!

This story is not so much about homosexual relationships as it is about father-son relationships, trust, and unconditional love. It is a poignant and often humorous story filled with clever and comic concepts and lines. One such exchange between father and son as the son is leaving on a date, "You know what they say about the early bird."(says the sonf) "Yes, but I don't think that's the kind of worm they were referring to." (replies father)

The Sum of Us, the play, ran Off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York in 1991. The Australian filmmakers sought American financing for the film but were repeatedly turned down. The film, starring Russell Crowe (in Jeff’’s character) was made in Sydney, and was shot in 30 days in Oct.-Nov. 1993 with a budget of about $3.5 million Australian. David Stevens, who also wrote the screenplay, has said much of the dialogue and situations are based on his life. The grandmother's relationship with another woman was based on his own grandmother, and there was a real-life "Woman on the Train.", a marvelous little story, within the story, in the play.

Russell Crowe on Gay Roles:

"There are many questions I would ask a character -- for instance, 'Do you believe in the death penalty?' -- before I ever got round to 'What's your sexuality?' I think other factors are more important in terms of human relationships and the way society operates than what someone's sexuality is. Sexual orientation is not something that people necessarily choose; it's just who they are." -- Interview magazine, Sept. 1997

Yes, it is very different, it might offend some people’s sensibilities and scripted belief systems, but if you are open minded, and more people are today, this is a truly excellent play with superb acting and directing. My wife and I truly enjoyed it and came away with a good feeling.

“The Sum of Us” comes from the line, “Our children are the sum of us!” This a remarkable production, well defined and plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:15 p.m., with Sunday performances at 2:15 p.m., now through May 20th in the Knight Stage III Theater in the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts. The theater is located at 1601 Civic Drive in Walnut Creek. There is a public garage next door to the theater.

PLEASE NOTE: THE PLAY CONTAINS ADULT THEMES AND LANGUAGE! Call (925) 943-7469 for reservations and additional information or visit the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts Web site at www.dlrca.org.