BY Brandon Voss
August 10 2009 11:00 PM ET
Young love is also abloom in Slipping through August 15 at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Another messed-up mom takes her troubled son to start a new life in a small town, only in this case it's in Iowa, and her son, a self-mutilating hipster named Eli, is openly gay. The author's note in the program points out that the action takes place in 2006 "at the shore of legalized marriage and Obama," but Eli's high school classmates are refreshingly indifferent when he starts sleeping with the heretofore heterosexual Jake, a shortstop on the baseball team.
Unfortunately, a violent relationship with a closet case back in San Francisco has Eli's guard way up. As Eli and Jake, Seth Numrich and MacLeod Andrews are able and adorable, and audiences can see a whole lot of them here. Intense fights balance equally immature yet extremely realistic seductions ("I'm hard as shit right now," Jake tells Eli), but the twist is that the Iowan jock is the sweetest, sanest character in the show. Also unexpected is the fact that the playwright, Daniel Talbott, is straight and happily married.
Lauren Kennedy, Anneliese Van Der Pol, and Sarah Stiles in Vanities
It was all about girl power in Vanities, a long-running 1976 off-Broadway play (which starred Kathy Bates) about three Texas cheerleaders who grow up and grow apart in the '60s and '70s. A New York revival was inevitable, but playwright Jack Heifner and songwriter David Kirshenbaum decided to turn it into a poppy, candy-colored musical. Originally announced for a Broadway run before producers got skittish due to our "complicated economic time," Vanities, a New Musical, directed by Designing Women 's Judith Ivey, opened July 16 at off-Broadway's Second Stage Theatre to tepid reviews and closed August 9. The musical's gay content is minimal -- one woman admits to a having a few lesbian affairs, and another drops a bomb that her son has fallen in love with a man -- but c'mon, a show about clothes-crazy, hairstyle-changing cheerleaders who sing songs called "Cute Boys in Short Haircuts" and make rainbows for school dances out of colored tissue paper and fishing wire? Bring it on!
Former model and soap star Cusi Cram's A Lifetime Burning, a Primary Stages production at 59E59 Theater A, ignites August 11 and flames out September 5. Kissing Jessica Stein 's Jennifer Westfeldt (a.k.a. Jon Hamm's girlfriend) stars as Emma, an off-her-meds manic-depressive who pens a fictitious memoir. As she defends her literary fabrication of Incan heritage and crackhead relatives to the sister who exposed her as a James Freyian fraud, we witness flashbacks to Emma's true torrid affair with a sexy Latino student.
Director Pam MacKinnon, a frequent Edward Albee interpreter, states in her program notes that the play's a work in progress, and a few extra tweaks might improve some stale, clunky dialogue. But what this drama lacks in polish it makes up for in pizzazz: Emma spends her hefty book advance on fancy new furniture, so the set is enviably gorgeous. Also fab is Emma's deliciously dry book agent, a vision in vintage Chanel played by Isabel Keating, who earned a Tony nod for channeling Judy Garland opposite Hugh Jackman in The Boy From Oz.
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