In the dead of winter, Henry flies from New York to Florida to offer condolences at the funeral of a father figure he never knew. But as the booze flows at the wake, are the surviving widow and her grown daughter ready to raise a glass to the unexpected guest? Set in 2012, somewhere between the dusk of the worst days of the AIDS crisis and the dawn of marriage equality, "Two Henrys" is a humor-laced...
In the dead of winter, Henry flies from New York to Florida to offer condolences at the funeral of a father figure he never knew. But as the booze flows at the wake, are the surviving widow and her grown daughter ready to raise a glass to the unexpected guest? Set in 2012, somewhere between the dusk of the worst days of the AIDS crisis and the dawn of marriage equality, "Two Henrys" is a humor-laced drama about guilt and grief, perceptions and prejudices and the urge to find family.
FROM THE PLAYWRIGHT
Constance has just lost her husband, Mike, after 60 years of marriage. But his sudden death isn’t the only grief inside her as she prepares for his wake at the southwest Florida home that they shared. The sting of losing her son, Henry, to HIV/AIDS 15 years earlier is aroused again with the arrival of a stranger at her home: Henry’s partner, also named Henry, has come to express his condolences — and to make a connection with the mother-in-law he never knew, in a place where he was not previously welcomed. Constance’s daughter, Amy, emboldened by alcohol and threatened by Henry’s appearance, shares memories of her brother but also questions the motives of the outsider, even as she hides a secret about her own family. Henry’s audacious visit is met with an equally audacious invitation. Constance, a drinker herself, asks him to stay the night in the guest room — Henry’s old room — setting the stage for an overdue confrontation about the late Henry’s life and death, the surviving Henry’s guilt and goals, and the staunchly conservative family’s role in the decline of their golden child. The play’s poolside conversations — dark, funny, humane, honest, touching — address prejudices and perceptions, mirroring “coming out” exchanges that still go on today. But following the decades-long delay of addressing the realities of their family tree, is hope still possible for a mother who needs a son, a son who needs a mother and a sister who seems to only need a drink?
“Two Henrys” is the result of a lot of things that I’ve experienced or heard over the years on the subject of LGBTQ people coming out of the closet. For some, “coming out” might seem like an almost quaint topic, in the age of marriage equality, but the struggle is real for millions of people who grow up in communities that are intolerant and downright hostile about anything that is “different.” The act of telling the truth about the experience of your identity is still a thing. I became interested in a fresh take on the coming-out ritual: I envisioned something about an aging mother who never had “the talk” with her gay son — and never would because he died of illness before HIV/AIDS was treatable. I also knew that I wanted to write a comedy. Like my play “Alabama Story,” I built “Two Henrys” on the foundation of clear opposites: conservative and liberal, gay and straight, brother and sister, parent and child, wellness and illness, spiritual and secular, grief and acceptance, sobriety and addiction, funerals and weddings, silence and communication, tears and laughter. At an earlier reading of the play in Salt Lake City, a gay man and his parents approached me with tears in their eyes. The father said, “We sure have lived some of this story.” I hope you come to fall in love with what’s both specific and universal about “Two Henrys,” and that maybe it inspires communication where before there was only silence.
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29 Jul. 2019
Two Henrys is a beautiful play about love, acceptance, grief and forgiveness. The three onstage characters are joined by a large community of offstage characters, alive and dead, who are as human and sympathetic as the characters we come to know. Heart-breaking and redemptive. Riveting from start to finish. ”
13 Apr. 2019
One of the most beautiful scripts I've read in along time. There were only about a hundred times I teared up reading it off the page, and laced throughout the play are also incredible moments of humanity and humor. I am a huge fan of Kenneth Jones' work. He has a deft hand with plays that capture touching and deep human moments, that never feel overly dramatized or overly sentimental. They're aren't overly anything in fact, they're wonderful and impeccable. I would LOVE to see this fully produced, it belongs in theaters' seasons all around the country. ”
CONSTANCE, late 70s/80ish, a white upper middle class Florida resident — a widow, mother and grandmother — with Wisconsin roots.
HENRY, 48, a gay middle class New Yorker of any race, raised in Indiana, once partnered with Constance’s son, also named Henry.
AMY, 50, Constance’s daughter, a white Midwestern wife and mother.
The playwright encourages multicultural casting in the role of Henry.
The play is performed on one set, with a neutral playing area to suggest a second location.
Red Mountain Theatre Company, Birmingham, Alabama
Hudson Stage Company, Armonk, NY
Pioneer Theatre Company Play-By-Play Reading Series