(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, November 4, 2019

Reverend's Reviews: Room for a Third?


Plenty of people fantasize about threesomes. Perhaps some of us have experienced a sexual or romantic encounter with two other people at the same time. But is it possible for three people – gay men in particular – to have a mutual, long-term relationship with one another? That is the question posed by The Third, a provocative, sexy 6-episode series newly available for streaming on Dekkoo and on DVD from TLA Releasing.

Its plot follows Jason (played by Sean McBride), a 29-year old gay man who unexpectedly stumbles into a “triad” with Carl and David (Corey Page and Ryland Shelton), an older, established Palm Springs couple who are struggling after five years of marriage. Thinking that a third person might spice up their relationship, they agree to move forward with Jason only to encounter a whole new set of complications. What begins as a passionate three-way affair is jeopardized by skepticism, jealousy and secrets. Writing their own rules along the way, Jason, Carl and David try to figure out the true definition of love.

The Third is the brainchild of filmmaker Matthew Lynn. To his and primary director Matt McClelland’s credit, a still-controversial subject is handled with grace and humor as well as appropriate doses of dramatic tension. Lynn has traveled around the world producing feature and short films, documentaries, music videos, and series. He has also created original shows for YouTube star Davey Wavey and served as the cinematographer for Brian Jordan Alvarez from Will & Grace. Lynn was actually the cinematographer on The Third and Palm Springs has never looked so good. The queer artist recently spoke with me about his latest project.

Three's company

“For me, this has been a complete labor of love; as they say: art imitates life, which imitates art,” Lynn said when asked about the show’s genesis. “I used to be a Southern Baptist music minister, which didn’t work out too well. When I was 23, I came out to my parents and they said ‘Leave and don’t come home again.’ Soon after, a gay couple took me in and became my surrogate family. Eventually, we entered into the triad relationship which initially inspired the show.” Fortunately, Lynn’s parents eventually came around and accept him today.

Lynn subsequently was in a second triad relationship. Between his personal experiences and in doing research for The Third, he learned “a lot of people are in triads or throuples.” He also learned some are in four-person “quads.” When asked to estimate the number of such multi-person relationships, Lynn reported “I can’t put an exact number on it but they are a lot more frequent than you think. Especially now with dating apps, people can advertise them more so there is more awareness.”

The Third doesn’t shy from showing the good, bad and even the ugly in such relationships. “Most of the stuff you see in season one is real, especially the jealousy and difficulty with communications, Lynn says. “In a triad, there are really four relationships going on: each individual’s relationship with the others and then the group dynamic. It can be tough to navigate, especially at first.”

The series’ cast is terrific, but finding the right actors proved challenging for Lynn and the production team. “We did a standard casting process in LA,” he replied when I asked about it. “We found Sean McBride (who plays Jason) and Corey Page (who plays Carl) quickly but had a hard time finding David,” who seems more troubled and morally complex than his triad partners. “We finally found Ryland Shelton and he was great.”

In addition to the human cast, the sumptuously photographed desert mecca of Palm Springs seems like an additional character in the show. “When I moved there, I was in my second triad relationship,” Lynn reflected. “The Third is a love letter to the city, which really is the gayest place on earth.”

Some viewers may be drawn to the series by the promise of three-way sex scenes. They are there, and in various configurations, but are non-graphic. Lynn is ultimately exploring something more lasting and profound. “Many people are now in non-traditional relationships, and this show is about bringing light and hope to them and their unique stories,” he said. “All of us are looking for somewhere to belong.”

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

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