Like any actor, Gianluigi Carelli needs to summon imaginative powers to slip beneath the skin of the characters he plays.

In his latest work he can call on an additional source of inspiration.

Carelli, pictured, will see the character he is portraying in Mardi Gras Festival play Thief River brought to life by other actors in the same production.

The work by US writer Lee Blessing follows Gil and Ray, two men who are 18-year-olds living in the real-life town of Thief River Falls in 1940s Minnesota when the play begins.

A gay hate attack on Gil provides initial dramatic impetus before the storyline moves to the 1970s, when Gil and Ray are 43. It then jumps to 2001, with the pair in their 70s.

It’s a 53-year relationship, basically, and it tells what happens over the 50 years.

Carelli, who cut his teeth during a drama degree at the University of Western Sydney, plays Gil as a gay teenager opposite Sam Firth’s Ray, who seems less sure of his sexuality and later marries.

Four other actors -“ Barry French, John Keightley, Rich Knighton and Frank McNamara -“ play the older parts, an arrangement Carelli says is instructive in interpreting his own role.

It does help me learn a lot about what happens to me and also to Ray.

Before the play starts, Gil and Ray are really good friends and they were together at one stage.

When the play starts they are kind of continuing their relationship, but a lot of it has happened before the play begins.

The two men keep in contact intermittently over the years before eventually meeting again, a storyline that has drawn comparison with current cinema hit Brokeback Mountain.

It’s about denial and what one really wants and keeping those secrets, Carelli says.

A lot of us keep secrets that we never want to share and I think Brokeback Mountain is the same.

Like the Ang Lee film, Thief River -“ directed in Sydney by Leigh Rowney and Michael Briggs -“ has a universal message, Carelli says.

There’s a lot of hate out there today -¦ and there’s a lot of people out there who still deny what they feel.

It rings true to a lot of stuff that happens now.

Thief River plays at New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown, from 2 February to 3 March. For bookings call 9519 8958 or visit the New Theatre website.

giveaway

Sydney Star Observer has two double passes to the Thief River performance on Friday 3 February at 8pm to give away. To be one of the lucky winners email comps@ssonet.com.au with your details.

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