Seat Filler: NYC Theater Guide for June 2009

So how about them Tonys, huh? If you skipped them or somehow missed host Neil Patrick Harris's tongue-in-cheek promotional tour, you probably still know that the 63rd annual Tony Awards honored the guys and dolls of the past Broadway season on Sunday, June 7. But when it came to the Great White Way, the only thing more dismal than the telecast's production values was the month of suspense leading up to the event. Nominations were announced on the morning of May 5, kicking off a torturous period when nothing new opens on Broadway — essentially the theatrical equivalent of filmdom's post-Oscar eligibility cut-off culture drought. Many thrifty theatergoers wait patiently until the winners are chosen before dropping their hard-earned dough on a three-figure ticket, but by that point, avid show queens like me have already seen all the Main Stem marvels. In either case, it's the perfect time to explore New York's gayest off- and off-off-Broadway offerings. So explore I did, sifting through treacly clichés, sinful stereotypes, and gratuitous nudity, searching for a sparkly sequin in the smallest of venues.

With The Temperamentals, a drama about Harry Hay's 1950 founding of the Mattachine Society, out playwright Jon Marans schooled the silly children who thought gay activism began with the Stonewall riots. "Temperamental" was gay-code for "homosexual," and homos all over town buzzed over Ugly Betty 's Michael Urie as organization co-founder Rudi Gernreich, an Austrian designer who notoriously designed the first topless swimsuit. (Urie showed off a snug square-cut onstage.) While his accent was a little "Now is zee time on Sprockets vhen vee dance," I was so impressed with his performance that I tweeted @michaelurie after the sold-out opening night to tell him. He didn't tweet back. And why should he? It's not like I'm Bernadette Peters, who, unlike Betty stars Tony Plana and Ana Ortiz, had "reserved" seats for the occasion. The limited engagement, which ended May 18 at the Barrow Group Studio, was actually sold out every show, but the theater only had 40 seats, and tickets were just $18. It reopened June 10 for a four-week run in a larger space at the same location. Great, now I'll never hear from Mr. Urie.

There were no stars at the equally packed May 31 opening of Thank You For Being a Friend: The Musical — except maybe for the horrified ghost of Bea Arthur. An unauthorized Golden Girls parody playing Sundays through July 12 at the Kraine Theater, Nick Brennan's and Luke Jones's scandalous spoof avoids copyright infringement by naming its old broads "Dorothea," "Blanchet," "Roz," and "Sophie." In case you didn't guess, they're nearly all done by dudes with dead-on comic impersonations. As if sloppy drag weren't enough to appease the queer East Village crowd, the conflict comes when the ladies learn that their loud, orgy-hosting neighbor is none other than Lance Bass (twinky actor Jody Wood, who put his Manhunt bio in lieu of his professional bio in the photocopied program). Only the Shady Oaks talent show can settle the score between the girls and gays. Trumping the silly-string-as-semen sight gags, "Dorothea," in the musical's ultimate "what, too soon?" plot twist, receives fellatio from a leather cub after getting gender reassignment surgery. If Betty White drops dead next week, these friends are to blame!

Tweaking gay stereotypes in a cleaner, classier way, Geoffrey Nauffts's Next Fall opened June 3 and closes July 5 at Playwrights Horizons. (According to the program, A-listers like Elton John and Sarah Jessica Parker contributed $5,000 toward the Naked Angels-produced play, so you know it's good!) Luke is younger and hotter than live-in boyfriend Adam, but their biggest problems stem from their polar-opposite religious beliefs: Yep, it's your classic Atheist-boy-meets-Christian-boy love story starring Patrick Breen and Patrick Heusinger (Lord Marcus on Gossip Girl). Not only is Luke not out to his family, he still prays after sex, hoping he'll be saved if he makes amends with God before Judgment Day. (During one of the couple's debates, Luke argues that if repentant, Matthew Shepard's killers might reach heaven before Matthew.) A faith-clashing confrontation is unavoidable when a car accident lands Luke in the hospital. But in a show full of characters in need of a firm shoulder-shaking, you may want to bitch slap Luke's buddy Brandon, who'll have sex with black men yet won't fall in love for the sake of his Lord.


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