Title: Late Company
Author: Jordan Tannahill
Genre: GLBTQIA+ Plays
Number of Pages: 120
Wow, this play got me choked up. With an arresting premise (a couple has dinner with the boy who helped bully their gay son to death and his family,) Late Company engaged my interest from beginning to end. What could have been a maudlin and obvious set-up ends up having a surprising amount of nuance and ambiguity. Michael and Debora’s son Joel wasn’t openly gay, but he was so flamboyant that everyone pretty much knew he was, and Curtis and his friends tormented him at school.
Curtis’ own thoughts on Joel’s suicide and the instrumental part he played in it are ambiguous, but his parents immediately try to place blame on Michael and Debora for being inadequate parents. This starts out subtle and becomes more and more obvious until Curtis’ father starts placing blame on Joel himself. Debora and Michael are no saints (and neither was Joel) but my heart broke for them. They so clearly want to reach closure with this get-together but you just know it’s all going to blow up because- well, how can it not?
The whole play is set in one location but it was so compelling that the interpersonal drama felt action-packed. Joel is the ‘late company’ of the title- he’s gone but the room is filled with his absence. As you discover more about Curtis and Joel you might start to question how big a part Curtis’ bullying played in Joel’s death as opposed to other, more insidious factors. I recommend this book to everyone, even people who don’t generally like plays. It’s a powerful story about grief and culpability whose shifting dynamics make it a fascinating read.