Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for February 2011
Audaciously directed by Elizabeth LeCompte, the Wooster Group’s exhilarating revival uses experimental artistry to uncover the cigarette-stained soul of this 1977 Tennessee Williams flop. As the gay writer in a seedy 1930s New Orleans boardinghouse, a terrific jockstrap-clad Ari Fliakos interacts with a violent young stud and a tubercular gay letch, neighbors both played by Scott Shepherd, with a strap-on highlighting the ugliness of lust.
Jerome Robbins Theater at Baryshnikov Arts Center, through March 13.
A Perfect Future
Starring Donna Bullock and Jeffrey’s Michael T. Weiss as unstable couple Natalie and John, David Hay’s engaging, darkly comic drama puts a compelling racial-political twist on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? replacing Nick and Honey with a gay fix-up: Daniel Oreskes as a friend from their days as college radicals and Scott Drummond as a young guy from John’s firm. As they open expensive bottles of wine, hideous true colors shine.
Cherry Lane Theatre, through March 6.
My Scandalous Life
Thomas Kilroy’s quietly touching play stars an uncannily convincing Des Keogh as Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s infamous lover. Addressing the audience in 1944 at the age of 74, Douglas — between Fiana Toibin’s interruptions as an Irish maid — rambles on in purple prose about his platonic marriage, sick son, and the indecency trials leading to Wilde’s imprisonment, but this stuffy drama needs some wilder dirt on Oscar himself.
Irish Repertory Theatre, through March 6.
In A.R. Gurney’s pleasant if lightweight comedy, a tuxedoed dad reconciles the lofty standards of his late father — a gentlemanly ghost played by The Nanny’s Daniel Davis — with modern mores as he prepares a rehearsal dinner toast for his son’s wedding. The family’s WASP-y tensions rise when the only other guest in a tie is a lesbian pal of the multiracial bride, whose gay ex-husband may steal the spotlight with stand-up comedy.
59E59 Theaters, through March 27.
The Hallway Trilogy
Adam Rapp’s tragic, transcendent trilogy — Rose, Paraffin, and Nursing — is set in one Lower East Side hallway in 1953, during the 2003 blackout, and in a disease-free 2053, when the tenement’s a museum for illnesses. In Paraffin, Guy Boyd’s aging gay tenant beds a young urban trick played by Stephen Tyrone Williams. And a steamy kiss between Nursing’s Louis Cancelmi and Logan Marshall-Green suggests a sexually fluid future.
Rattlestick Theater, through March 20.
Who or what is “Abulkasem,” a seemingly magical name often dropped and repurposed? That’s the question in Swedish playwright-novelist Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s delightful but dizzying comedy, a subversive European hit now getting its U.S. premiere. Portrayed by a fine four-person ensemble, the quirky characters include a gay Lebanese exterminator who, flamboyantly played by Andrew Guilarte, is angered by the U.S. asylum process.
Walkerspace at Soho Rep, through March 13.
Directed by Danton Stone for InViolet Rep, Michael Henry Harris’s promising dramedy clocks the unexpected pregnancy of Angie, a loan-saddled doctor, with Mark, a rejected novelist peddling his new book on the subway. Financial issues aside, Angie is secretly rebounding from a lesbian relationship with a woman she still loves. Harris has a keen ear for honest dialogue, but his choppy scenes might be better suited to an indie screenplay.
The 4th Street Theatre, through March 12.
In the Pony Palace/Football
Writer-director Tina Satter put a wonderfully weird feminist spin on the absurd passions of high school football by casting women not only as cheerleaders but also as coaches and players in Half Straddle’s hip production. Despite little plot and lots of peculiar teen-speak — Gus Van Sant and Diablo Cody were likely influences — the play scored with stylized dance breaks and a marching band soundtrack of lesser-known Lady Gaga songs.
The Bushwick Starr, closed February 26.
The Loose Chanteuse
With cheeky numbers like an Ambien tribute and a mash-up of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” and The Magic Flute, Varla Jean Merman took Manhattan before taking her rollickingly ribald new act to New Orleans and San Francisco. A comically complaisant creation of Jeffery Roberson, the Girls Will Be Girls star also gave out Fleet enemas with Oprah’s enthusiasm while Tom Judson — pruriently known as Gus Mattox — tickled the ivories.
Ars Nova, closed February 26.
The Other Steve and Edie
For three evenings that lucky attendees will rave about for years, Nurse Jackie’s Edie Falco and Stephen Wallem teamed for a classy cabaret act, a cool salute to the swingin’ stylings of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé. The gay Wallem — Jackie’s gay nurse Thor — is a celebrated fixture of Chicago’s cabaret scene, but Falco showed off warm, confident vocals as the duo elevated their on-screen chemistry to unexpected new heights.
Laurie Beechman Theatre, closed February 6.
A rousing rock concert and gutsy spiritual adventure, Paul Oakley Stovall's enlightening musical enterprise was loosely based his own journey from retail to White House advance associate. In this fictionalized tale of self-exploration — Obama is replaced by a lovable female candidate, for starters — Stovall also examined his attraction to black-fetishizing white guys, and Brad Simmons was a standout as his “hey, gurl” confidante.
Dixon Place, closed February 19.
Inspired by Jacques Brel’s “Au Suivant,” Stephen Gracia’s solid WWII drama featured a variety of soldiers waiting in line to visit a mobile Army unit whorehouse. There’s some “faggot” trash-talking, and some men teasingly try to convince the lone virgin that he’s gay and that the lieutenant — a skeevy voyeur who doubled as an awkward narrator — wants to screw him, but long stretches of gratuitous nudity got no complaints from me.
HERE Arts Center, closed February 19.
Small Craft Warnings
Austin Pendleton, who directed the thrilling Three Sisters revival at Classic Stage, fumbled with his stiff, stagnant staging of this 1972 Tennessee Williams drama about a motley crew in a Southern California coastal bar. The spartan set and much of the casting were poor choices, but Pendleton saved some face with his perfect portrayal of Quentin, a washed-up gay screenwriter who picks up a young gay cyclist played by Adam Dodway.
The Studio Theatre at Theater Row, closed February 27.
Rinne Groff ambitiously dramatizes the obsessive quest of Meyer Levin — here called Sid Silver and played by an effectively manic Mandy Patinkin — who spiraled out of control when his attempts to adapt Anne Frank’s diary for the stage were thwarted by the likes of Lillian Hellman and Cheryl Crawford, whose sexuality he questions. But sweet little Anne, portrayed by a marionette because Sid owns a puppet theater, is the real star.
The Public Theater, through March 13.
Interviewing the Audience
Chances are that quite a few gay people also starred in this unusual theatrical exploration, considering that three audience members were brought up onto the stage at each performance. Inspired by raconteur Spalding Gray’s original concept, the blandly likable Zach Helms interviewed said volunteers onstage, creating a uniquely intimate journey out of his subjects’ answers and anecdotes, which, as expected, ranged from riveting to tedious.
Vineyard Theatre, closed February 27.