Set in the early '70s in a studio apartment in Boston, USA (the play's title refers to the street address), 46 Beacon is a simple but affecting tale of coming out and growing up. English actor Robert - on the emotional run from a failing relationship in London, and on the professional run from a 'juve lead' career on the skids back home - seduces gauche, theatre-obsessed kid Alan. So far, so straightforward, but writer Bill Rosenfield gives the two characters such interesting, all-too-human quirks and contradictions that we are kept fully engaged for the play's entire 85 minute duration.
It helps of course that the two actors in Alexander Lass's intimate, expertly paced production are so strong. As Robert, Jay Taylor impressively suggests both a soul in turmoil and somebody painfully aware of the passing of time underneath the predatory suaveness and surface vanity. Oliver Coopersmith brilliantly captures the sense of Alan being an essentially sweet person, uncomfortable in his own skin but longing to break out and make a real connection with another human being. The lovely moment where he goes to make the bed he has just been deflowered in is quietly heartbreaking.
Rosenfield's dialogue is often sharply funny, and sometimes excruciatingly raw in its accuracy, except for the final moments where Alan looks back on his sexual awakening with an acceptance and lack of rancour that, to me anyway, seemed a little too good to be true. As an American living in London, Rosenfield unerringly captures both the British and the American speech patterns and phraseology, so that both characters sound completely convincing throughout. The large age gap between the men - man and boy really - is depicted without judgement - something that may have needed to be addressed less perfunctorily had the play featured more than just the two characters.
As it stands, it is a gently gripping, unexpectedly humorous glance at a pair of adrift souls finding a brief, mismatched connection. It also has more truth and heart in it than many plays of twice the length.
46 Beacon runs at Trafalgar Studios until 29 April.