Out gay writer /director Michael Cicetti created, produced, and stars in the frothy digital series “5A5B.” The show chronicles the trials and tribulations of two gay men, Kev (Cicetti) and Andre (Ángelo Luis Rios), and their straight divorcée neighbor, Jan (Angela Atwood), who live on the fifth floor of an apartment building at 140th Street in New York.
The apartment provides a sphere of comfy domesticity. But when they go out into the world, Kev, Jan, and Andre, create catastrophe.
The digital series currently offers two full-length (approximately 20-minute) episodes along with a five-minute prelude, and the show is infectious fun. The hapless characters are likable, and they spout witty dialogue, even if the situations are sitcom contrivances. In the first episode, all hell breaks loose when the friends work a surprise party at Kevin’s ex’s brownstone in the West Village. In episode two, the trio hole up in Kevin’s academic advisor’s apartment during a heatwave, where more hell breaks loose.
Cicetti recently spoke with Gay City News about making his digital series.
GARY M: KRAMER: What prompted you to create this show, and develop these characters?
MICHAEL CICETTI: I was almost exclusively an actor, and I produced this out of necessity. I felt I needed to make something in my voice and expressive of who I was. I knew Angela, who plays Jan, from the William Esper Studio. The piece was inspired by our friendship. Angela is a divorcée who has two children. She was living down the street from me and we got into debauchery together. But we also got groceries together, did laundry together, and did the Netflix and wine thing. I experience my gay maleness through my friendships with older women. Ángelo is one of my closest friends, so I wanted to capture that dynamic, as well.
KRAMER: You play Kev, who is still having trouble adulting in his 30s. Can you talk about playing an insecure gay man who is getting his degree in geology?
CICETTI: I’m 36, and it’s more interesting to have Kev struggling and not established in academia — taking oddball jobs. A lot of the New York shows have the city crushing the characters. I wanted to show an alternate family embracing the hustle, thriving and not lamenting in the gig economy and catering jobs.
KRAMER: “5A5B” feels old school in the sense of being a comfy sitcom, and new school in that you’re following yo
ur own rules making a digital series. Can you talk about your approach to the material?CICETTI: I embrace farce. I write to my strengths — physical comedy, expressions, and what makes me laugh. My barometer of success is: Does is make me laugh? And getting other people laughing is the ultimate high. I love the set, directing, and editing, but the writing that crafts the circumstances that push people into crazy behavior — that is the most enjoyable part to me.
KRAMER: What can you say about the show’s comedy—the timing, the physical humor, the wordplay?
CICETTI: It’s catastrophic farce. I compound and build things so there is one payoff per episode. My process is very grounded in the reality of the Meisner technique and doing things under imaginary circumstances and acting out the scenarios. What would I really do/ say and how would the other person respond? I don’t outline the stuff, I find things naturally, and I then you play the moments out. Then you go back and hone and craft. It’s an improvisation.
KRAMER: The show hints at being naughty but remains very PG-13. Do you feel pressure to give the show broad appeal?
CICETTI: Usually, it’s the gay men who are more promiscuous, but Kev is kind of a prude. He’s not as sexually free as he’d like to be. He is experiencing sexuality through a woman over 50.
I am sex-positive, but a sexual scenario would have to be interesting and provocative. Skin sells, but I have to say the torso does become tiresome — a white, gay clone being proliferated. I hope to diversify and find a creative way to realistically represent gay identity. If I want to be titillated, I’ll watch porn. I don’t need a gay webseries to satisfy that. I wrote “5A5B” for a wide audience, and feature characters in this long post-college haze of instability. I want to build Jan’s character more and speak to women who are straight and have gay friends.
KRAMER: Can you talk about the decisions and the difficulties of producing what is essentially a half-hour sitcom?
CICETTI: I wanted something grounded in behavior and situation. This is a digital series. Organically, these scripts are at the full-length network comedic level. We have a partnership of five executive producers. This is the wavelength I want to be at, and we can make more of an industry impact if we put together a piece that is $25,000 an episode, and push ourselves to go past being a webseries to being a digital series, and doing it right and courting the industry.
KRAMER: Where does the series go from here?
CICETTI: The series is public and open via the recently launched website. Revry is updating their app, and we will be distributed as part of that new launch this spring. We might go back to short film format because it’s the most feasible. One route is finding an established entity to help bring it to a network level; the other option is keep going indie rogue.
5A5B | Created by Michael Cicetti | @friendsof5A5B | Available at 5a5bseries.com