Climax is Just the Beginning with ‘AFTERGLOW’

For every relationship there are the most intimate moments that others wish they could have witnessed or experienced. It is these intimacies that tap into the complexity that can arise among everyone involved. Such is the story of AFTERGLOW from writer/director S. Asher Gelman, which makes its west coast premiere on May 5 at the historic Hudson Theatre in Los Angeles.

Photo by Casey Kringlen

In AFTERGLOW, the climax is just the beginning. The show is an international sensation that received acclaim Off-Broadway and in London. A raw, one-act play that explores the emotional, intellectual, and physical connections between three men and the broader implications within their relationships. It’s an up-close portrayal of a modern day throuple, a common experience in gay relationships.

When Josh (Noah Bridgestock) and Alex (James Hayden Rodriguez), a married couple in an open relationship, invite Darius (Nathan Mohebbi) to share their bed one night, a new intimate connection begins to form and all three men must come to terms with their individual definitions of love, loyalty, and trust as futures are questioned, relationships are shaken, and commitments are challenged. 

Photo by Casey Kringlen

The conversations and themes in AFTERGLOW may be familiar to those who have opened their relationship to a third person or even polyamorous dynamic. For those who may have never explored this type of non-conventional relationship, AFTERGLOW is a compelling narrative that traverses the possibility of love and lust without boundaries.

Ahead of its premiere at the Hudson Theatre, Instinct connected with Writer/Director S. Asher Gelman and actor Nathan Mohebbi, to learn more about the stories and experiences behind AFTERGLOW.

Asher Gelman – Writer/Director

Photo by Mati Gelman

INSTINCT: Where did the inspiration come from to write AFTERGLOW?

ASHER GELMAN: Eight years ago, shortly after my husband and I opened our relationship, I entered into a two-month relationship with another man.  I was brand new to consensual non-monogamy, and lacked the experience and vocabulary necessary to navigate it, and the experience nearly ended my marriage.  I always felt a lot of guilt about how I handled that situation; because I was afraid of my feelings, I was not honest about them, and my dishonesty caused a lot of pain.  I wrote the play as a way of deconstructing and, essentially, troubleshooting that experience so I could learn from it and grow.

INSTINCT: Is any of the story based on personal experience?

SAG: All of it is based on personal experience.  While the plot points of the play have been altered for dramatic effect, the conversations contained within it are all based on ones I’ve participated in, with lovers, strangers, and everyone in between.

INSTINCT: How has been the process working on AFTERGLOW?

SAG: Afterglow began its journey six years ago, at a reading in my apartment in New York.  Five years ago, we opened in a tiny Off Broadway theater for what was planned to be an eight-week run.  The show ran for 14 months and is now being produced all over the world.  It has been an absolute joy working on this piece again, five years later, with the original creative team, who came back together for this production.  All of us have five more years of experience, both professional and personal, and it has been a delight getting to revisit this play and to bring all of that experience to the stage.  On a personal note, at the time of the original production, my husband Mati and I were unaware that we were polyamorous.  We were already in a romantic relationship with our partner, Tony (we’ve been involved for the past six years), we just didn’t know it yet – we figured it out a few months after the original production closed.  My boyfriend, Stefano, and I have been together for the past year and a half.  He came out to live with me in LA while I rehearsed this production and everyone is coming out for the opening.  Having a much more nuanced understanding of polyamory (and consensual non-monogamy in general) has allowed me to add that nuance to the play and elevate it.  Lastly, Afterglow has always been a family, and it has been a pleasure bringing this new cast and crew, who bring everything they have into this show, into that family.  It has been an incredibly enjoyable process working with such talented professionals and I really cannot wait for audiences to see what they can do.  In summation, this whole experience has felt like a homecoming in the best of ways.  

INSTINCT: How does AFTERGLOW contribute to the conversation of non-conventional relationships?

SAG: We’ve all been collectively force-fed a very specific (and unrealistic) understanding of relationships.  We’re taught that, in order to be accepted by society, we must find someone else to love us and that person must be able to fulfill all of our needs and we must be able to fulfill all of theirs and that perfect, symbiotic dynamic between us must remain exactly the same for the rest of our lives.  It’s what all of the movies and songs and books tell us true love is.  If we can’t do this – if we can’t find that perfect person to love us perfectly and maintain that perfect dynamic forever – then there must be something terribly wrong with us.  The truth is that no one can fulfill all of our needs, and we can’t possibly fulfill all of someone else’s, and because of that, because we are taught that this perfect, unchangeable love is an achievable goal, we ignore this glaring reality – that no relationship is perfect and that we are constantly evolving, and sometimes we don’t evolve in the same ways, which often requires a reassessment of our relationships.  So we hide the parts of ourselves that we believe make us less compatible.  We don’t communicate effectively with our romantic interests, because we are so afraid that we might reveal something that may make us incompatible, and then we would be alone, which is the worst thing in the whole world (in actuality, being in a relationship with the wrong person is far worse than not being in a relationship at all).  I believe those conversations are essential, especially if they reveal incompatibilities between us, because we can use that information to better our relationships, whether that means altering them or ending them.  Love is easy; relationships are work.  They require maintenance and compromise, and it is not a given that everyone is ready, willing, or able to put in that work.  I wrote Afterglow to shine a light on those honest, difficult conversations – to open up topics that make us uncomfortable – so that we can be better communicators about our wants and needs and, hopefully, bring us into stronger relationships through that communication.

INSTINCT: What do you hope audiences will take away from AFTERGLOW?

SAG: I hope the play will inspire its audience to have an honest conversation, whatever that conversation may be.  We are so afraid of our thoughts; we believe they incriminate us in action, and because of that, we often keep them to ourselves.  Having a thought and performing an action are two very different concepts, and we should be able to share our thoughts, especially with the ones we love, without fear.  If those conversations reveal things we need to know, even if those things make us uncomfortable, we can use that information to improve our relationships and our lives.  We tend to make assumptions rather than do the actual research, and often doing that research can reveal surprising results.  In a world that is increasingly moving towards lies and half-truths, I ultimately want to push people towards honesty.  My dishonesty, which inspired the play, nearly ended my marriage; my honesty saved it.  Making honesty my default has had a profoundly positive effect on every relationship I have, and I hope that this play will inspire others to practice that radical honesty as well.

Nathan Mohebbi – Actor

Photo by Casey Kringlen

INSTINCT: How has the process been working on AFTERGLOW? 

NATHAN MOHEBBI: Future me will read this answer and make fun of current me for saying this but…Spiritual? It’s felt very unreal in a host of ways. First of all, I got cast 2 years ago, but then something super random happened…I can’t quite remember what it was…Oh right, a huge plague. So just getting to actually do the show was such an unreal moment, because I wasn’t sure it would ever happen. And now that it has, being able to finally work through this piece, and on this beautiful character, has been life-affirming. This will be my first return to the stage since the pandemic hit and I’m so unbelievably lucky to have the team I have for this show. Everyone brought their whole hearts and poured them into this piece to make a special show for audiences that I hope they really connect to. My two co-stars have been a true blessing. To be able to create intimacy and to have such an intense connection with people who were absolute strangers to me weeks ago…I mean, I’m blessed. So yeah, it’s been a very “spiritual” process.

INSTINCT: Can you relate in any way to your character? 

NM: Darius is an extension of myself. He’s all the insecurities I had in my early twenties mixed with my tendency towards naive hopefulness. He’s skeptical of modern dating, but once he opens up he gives his love so freely and with a full heart. In the show, he has this seemingly mundane life that he feels is going nowhere. I don’t think being young and poor in the big city was exactly the life he thought it would be. So when love comes knocking on his door, he sees a chance to have an adventure that has eluded him thus far. I relate to that deep yearning for something more. 

INSTINCT: What do you hope audiences will take away from AFTERGLOW? 

NM: A sense of urgency to tell the truth. To look at themselves in the mirror, and decide to be honest about what they want out of their relationships. I hope they are empowered to communicate to their loved ones in ways they never thought were possible, and that they feel no shame in having those conversations. 

INSTINCT: How does AFTERGLOW contribute to the conversation of non-conventional relationships? 

NM: It gives a glimpse into the idea that we are not bound by societal norms in terms of what “love” looks like in relationships. That we deserve to seek out our own kind of happiness in love. And that we can only accomplish that by being 100% honest with ourselves and our consensual partners. Every single person—every single relationship is different. We all have different needs and wants. I don’t know a single LGBTQ+ relationship that doesn’t participate in some form of openness, whether it be sharing a new partner or having individual sexual and/or emotional experiences with others. We need stories like AFTERGLOW for our community, to help us navigate these relationships and show that they exist and are valid. 

Step into the shower with AFTERGLOW! Performances run through Saturday, June 19 at the Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles. Shows are on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 7pm. 

The play will open simultaneously in Madrid on May 5, and will also enjoy productions in Ft. Lauderdale, San Juan, and Buenos Aires this season. 

For tickets and more information, please visit

2 thoughts on “Climax is Just the Beginning with ‘AFTERGLOW’”

  1. I saw this play off-Broadway during it’s run at the Davenport Theater. I found it a very moving experience, however, I had gone through the same thing and my relationship ended after 15 years, which it had to do, because, essentially, it was dead. The performance saddened me, but I did love it. I loved the staging and the show was really sexy. When my relationship first ended, I really could relate to the first Sex and the City film, because everything that those women went through, I went through that year, but I got myself back. This play reflected that experience as well. I applaud the author and actors for an excellent theater experience.


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