Voted Best Gay Play of the 2014 by Chicago Pride Film and Theater
What happened in Joe’s past that he’s blocked it so completely out? When you open the door to someone’s horrific past, you sometimes have to step through it in order to help.
Anna is a no-nonsense psychologist going for tenure, but to get tenure she must get published. Spearheading an ADHD research program was going to be her way to success. But due to her abrasive personality, she is removed from that project and put on a small Alzheimer’s research program, testing the effects of a new drug. Her job is to interview patients and measure their cognitive powers. It’s a real step down for her and she hates everything about the project until she meets Joseph, an argumentative, sixty-five year old gay man, who isn’t yet ready to die. Journeying back into his past and what he’s had to endure to just survive, forces Anna to finally step out of her own limiting universe to care for someone other than herself, but it may already be too late for both of them.
See what the critics had to say about Gentle Passage’s Premiere performance in Hollywood
“Like Flowers For Algernon, this world premiere play by Paul Elliott and Ed Joswick examines what it means to live your life in reverse, and what that means for the people who can’t help but fall in love with you along the way…. well defined characters beautifully penned, push you to invest in this moving, conversational character study about the profound impact two human beings on each other’s lives.” ~LA Theatre Review
“…the work is touching and poignant…it folds the audience into the crux of the play’s humanity.” ~ LAist
Richard Adams says “Loved It” · June 13, 2012
RICHARD ADAMS, The World Socialist Website – One of the first jewels of this years Fringe. “Gentle Passage, an hour-long two-hander, tells the story of Joe, an aging gay man who has enrolled in an Alzheimer’s study conducted by Anna, a callously abrasive UCLA research fellow. … Anna initially treats him with all the courtesy and care she’d give a recalcitrant lab rat. But as the weekly clinical interviews proceed, Joe’s nightmarish backstory begins to emerge: a sexual history that began when he was a child, with partners ranging from an older brother, male strangers, and his own schizophrenic mother. Played with a disarming childish sweetness by Gary Rubenstein, Joe doesn’t see any of these sexual encounters as abusive and accepts the horrible events of his life with the blithe acceptance of a naif. Anna, the “objective” professional, is horrified. The more she learns, the more she begins to care. The moment when Joe is no longer able to place blocks in their appropriate holes, Anna, overwhelmed by a desperate hope that Joe is not falling through the Alzheimer rabbit-hole, places the blocks for him, marks the turning point in this deeply moving play. It’s heartbreaking. ”
“Loved It” · This show really packs an emotional wallop. It’s a well-written, emotionally complex character study full of unexpected humor and terribly sad and painful moments.
BLAKE BOYD “Loved It” “GO!” A difficult story to watch unfold but compelling. A moving and entertaining hour that makes us grateful for what we have. GO !…
Todd Babcock “Loved It” · June 16, 2012 “… While this wretched disease robs Joseph of his memory it takes nothing from his spirit. A piece that begs to be played maudlin, the playwright manages to side-step that urge and keep the tempo and tone forward and humorous. A play about finding yourself through another person. It is never too late.”
“Gentle Passage” is strong stuff about just how indomitable the human spirit can be, even in the face of almost inconceivable childhood neglect and abuse. The show cries out for a longer life. It’s that good.”
Ann Hall “Loved It” ” an emotionally moving, satisfying journey.” Told simply and effectively, this well-directed and carefully written (true) story is superbly acted by Gary and Rachael. I was wiping away tears at the end.
CAILIN HARRISON “Loved It” · Heartbreaking and heartwarming in perfect balance. Ironically called Gentle Passage, Paul Elliot and Ed Joswick’s play takes you on a journey that rings true. Down the rocky road of how memories can become nightmares as a man loses his mind and ultimately his life. Gary Rubenstein and Rachel Boller are riveting on stage leading you through his struggle with his final stage of life. He does not “go quietly into that gentle night.”
STEPHEN BLACKBURN “Loved It” · Go see this play. By the end of it I was bawling. And just thinking back on it makes me get teary-eyed. A triumph for all involved….
DINA KAMPMEYER “Loved It” ·I wasn’t quite prepared for Gentle Passage. I hadn’t heard much about the show and I certainly wasn’t expecting the emotional impact it would have on me. It was such a beautiful mixture of joy and tears. Gary Rubenstein is a tour-de-force and his journey through alzheimer’s was wondrous, joyous and devastating. His Joseph is such a beautiful, hopeless, joyous person that we utterly sympathize, but never pity him. I highly recommend that you take the time to see this play if you’ve got the time and remember to bring tissues.”
OMG – Loved it. As a reviewer, I’m awfully glad I prioritized seeing “Gentle Passage” yesterday. It destroyed me. During one specific scene change I burst into an audible sob, then somehow held it together (likely so I wouldn’t miss any details) until the very end. The curtain call. Lights down and then I lost it again. …Sometimes life is just fucked up and nice people come out of bruised and almost okay. It’s easy until you remember how the bruises got there.
NANCY BEVERLY “Loved It” How anyone survives a harrowing childhood is sometimes unfathomable, but in Gentle Passage we see the power of healing through storytelling. A
AMY NATHAN “Loved It” · A wonderful addition to this year’s festival! Moving without being self-pitying; this piece will stay with me for a long time.
LAURA BUTT “Loved It” · I went in not knowing what to expect and WHAM! If there is anything you can think of that says “drama” to you, this play has it! Regret, suffering, longing, stifling self-oppression, fear, loneliness… everything! Rachel is wonderful at opening up the locked personality that is Anna, and Gary is amazing at playing Joe, a loveable but tragic gay man coping with Alzheimer’s. A must-see for Fringers and all fans of amazing dramas!! .
“Poignant and masterfully told, this “story within a story” holds humor and unflinching heartbreak as we are allowed to bear witness to Joe’s life. ”
Sam Vieira “Loved It” · This show falls just shy of being perhaps the best show I’ve ever seen — an award-winning show that should quickly move beyond the fringe to the world. Bravos all around!”
Kathy Turner says “Loved It” · It’s plays like this that make me love live theater so much and want for even more. Gentle Passage is that little gem in the rough that I will think about for years. Bravo!
Excellent: ‘ Fierce Backbone’s production of Gentle Passage portrays the transformation of two juxtaposed characters that become unlikely best friends through a clinical drug trial. Anna is a bitchy, academic researcher working for a pharmaceutical company set to the task of documenting drug efficacy by collecting subject life stories. Joe is a gentle, but straightforward gay man with a horribly tragic past suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. .LAist Review!!! Mia Bonadonna
Shari Barrett “Loved It” · The heart of this story sneaks into your consciousness slowly through the short vignettes that signify each visit Joseph has as part of a clinical medical study on trial medication for Alzheimer’s….The writing of this play, by Paul Elliott and Ed Joswick, is a story of and from the heart. The two characters are well-defined and are given rich, carefully-threaded words to flesh out their intentions. It is a story everyone can take something away from, and will leave you remembering how it made you feel.
For a preview copy of this play,Gentle Passage, please email
the playwright at firstname.lastname@example.org