Eddie and Danny’s lifelong relationship comes apart under the stress of deception, sexual fear, and self-loathing.
The two are a couple of blue-collar guys. As teenagers in high school (Class of 1968) they engaged in a little sexual exploration with each other until they started dating girls. After graduation they stayed in their small hometown, got married, and had kids.
In Act I (1975), Eddie questions his sexuality and is overcome with religious guilt after an encounter in a public restroom. When he turns to his best friend Danny for help, their lifelong relationship is destroyed when its toxic nature is revealed.
Act II takes place ten years later (1985). Danny’s wife has divorced him after finding him in flagrante with a man. Eddie, though still married, has arranged a night with a gay friend in an attempt to resolve his sexual conflicts once and for all. Now both men discover they may have been infected with HIV/AIDS. Are they capable of confronting this devastating reality together?
DANNY and EDDIE--Small-town blue-collar guys, both age 25 in Act I, age 35 in Act II.
Act I: The front seat of Danny’s car/pickup truck, implied by two chairs (or a car seat) and possibly a steering wheel.
Act II: The rathskeller of a local bar, implied by two chairs and a table.
Act I: 1975, early fall, night.
Act II: 1985, early fall, afternoon.
This play uses graphic language in describing sex acts between adults and sexual exploration by adolescents.
The two characters are rural small-town guys and would most probably be white. However, there is no reason the actors have to be.
Towns mentioned in the script are places in Indiana. Productions in other states should feel free to change the town names to bring the play closer to home.
Act I may be produced as a standalone one-act play.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM READERS ON NEW PLAY EXCHANGE
George Sapio: “A blunt yet compassionate two-hander that examines the vicious guilt about "illicit" sexuality inflicted by society and religion. Eddie and Danny are victims of their culture, taught how to separate and hate rather than how to examine the nature of their own desires and see them as organic and innocent. It takes a crisis to bring them together and to find a way to do the right thing. A wonderful and honest play.”
John Medlin: “Growing up gay in a conservative small town is a dangerous and scary thing. The fear of being outed hangs like an omen. Unfortunately, that leads to things happening in secret. "Best Friends" is a play about one of those moments. Donald Baker's play is sincere with its execution. Eddie and Danny are beautifully drawn characters just trying to make the best out of a messy situation. The dialogue flows smoothly and their struggle is relatable. This play serves as a reminder of the importance of being able to talk about sexuality and safe sex practices. It's a wonderful piece!”
DC Cathro: “The themes touched on in Baker’s Best Friends will be very familiar to many in the LGBTQ+ community. This short piece is raw, blunt, and explicit, and the emotionally charged dialogue between these two “friends” slices like a knife and punches like a fist. It’s not an easy read, but it deals with important topics in the gay community and will leave quite an impact.”
Scott Sickles: “When do boys stop being boys? When are they held accountable as men? Is accountability possible when the definition of manhood has changed to exclude it? Baker vivisects innumerable complexities of male friendship, sexuality, and masculinity, keeping it laser focused over a single ride home. The world and relationships are extraordinarily complex and clear, capturing the turning point in a lifelong friendship tainted by imbalances of power, sex, and loyalty. Those of us finding familiarity in this wreckage will feel a crack in our chests. If you're lucky enough not to be us, it'll still leave a mark.”
Bruce Karp: “Baker’s play is about decisions made and I think, also decisions not made. His terrific setup of two guys talking about their earlier escapades, which they thought were innocent at the time, turns into discussions of infidelity, secrecy, and unspoken desires, which do finally get spoken in a way. I like that the story is left somewhat unresolved at the end, but by the end, there is much for the characters and the audience to think about. This play should be a part of any festival of LGBTQ plays.”
Jared Reynolds: “Life is messy. Metaphorically. Sometimes literally. We are an amalgamation of our past experiences, our upbringing, and the people around us. We are also products of the times we are in; the cultural and societal complexities that are the backdrop of everything we do, regardless of what we know and what we feel. How do you encapsulate the pleasure and the shame of enjoying sex but being taught it's evil? How do you protect yourself and others when what you are is publicly despised? I don't know, but Don Baker definitely figured it out with Best Friends. Worth the read.”
Paul Donnelly: “Danny and Eddie are complex characters who find themselves in increasingly more desperate circumstances. Their relationship is full of humor as well as trust and conflict. The specter of homophobia (especially internalized) hovers over both scenes. The presence of HIV/AIDS raises the stakes in the second scene. This is a powerful play that captures the dynamics of a friendship and the nature of their times with great insight and humanity.”