Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sense of an Ending at 59E59 Theaters

Hubert Pont-Du Jour in SENSE OF AN ENDING.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
When Rwandan President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down (allegedly by the very Tutsi rebels with whom he had been planning to sign a peace accord), killing the President and all aboard, it sparked a vengeful reaction by Hutu extremists who seized control of the government and massacred 800,000 Tutsi, hacking many to death with their machetes and burning others alive.  As the Hutus advanced on Kigali, many Tutsi sought sanctuary in the local Catholic church – but to no avail.  The Hutus found them in the church, doused them with the church’s own fuel, and set them ablaze.  Virtually all died.

On the day that President Habyarimana’s plane was downed, Father Neromba, the head of the Catholic church in Kigali and a Hutu himself, had a vision: the Virgin Mary came to him and told him – what?  Sister Justina (Heather Alicia Simms) and Sister Alice (Dana Marie Ingraham) were Catholic nuns of the Benedictine order at Father Neromba’s church in Kigali and they knew of his miraculous vision.  And they were also Hutu.

Now, five years after the massacre at the church, Father Neromba has disappeared and is being sought on charges that he was complicit in the massacre.  Sister Justina and Sister Alice have been arrested on similar charges and are awaiting transfer to Belgium, where they are to be charged with having provided the Hutus with the fuel with which they burned their Tutsi victims alive.  Predictably, they deny the charges brought against them and hope to convince the world of their innocence, even before they are brought to trial in Belgium.

To that end, they have agreed to meet with Charles (Joshua David Robinson), a reporter for the New York Times whose editor, Kendra, has sent him to Rwanda to get the human interest story that will portray the two sisters’ plight in the most sympathetic light.  Charles would love to be able to bring back such a story for Kendra (she is not only his boss but also his romantic interest), but it is even more important to him that the story he brings back be the truth: Charles, as it turns out, has had a bit of a problem with the truth in the past, having been accused of plagiarism, and his current assignment, if truthfully and successfully completed, could go a long way toward restoring his own reputation.

When Charles arrives in Rwanda, he is met by Paul (Hubert Point-Du Jour), a Tutsi corporal in the Rwandan Patriotic Front (the military force that has restored order in Rwanda) who is to be his guide.  Paul is convinced that the sisters are guilty as sin and that their protestations of innocence are a pack of lies and, in support of his position, he produces Dusabi (Danyon Davis), a Tutsi and the sole survivor of the genocidal massacre at the church.

In Sense of an Ending by Kern Urban, currently receiving its US premiere at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan, it is up to Charles to interview the sisters, to listen to Dusabi’s story, and somehow to arrive at the truth of what really transpired at the church.  But the challenge confronting Charles goes much deeper than that:  not only must he determine the nuns’ factual culpability, if any, for the massacre that occurred at the church but he must determine their moral culpability, if any, as well.  Whatever the nuns may have done, should their allegiance to their Catholic faith and to Father Neromba (who, after all, may have been directed in his actions by the Virgin Mary herself) enter into Charles’ moral calculus?  Whatever they may or may not have done, were they ever really in a powerful enough position themselves to do anything else?  If nothing that the nuns did not do but might have done would have made no difference in the final tragic result anyway, should they still be punished?  Is there a greater moral value – one of reconciliation – that transcends questions of guilt or innocence in individual acts?

Sense of an Ending is an exceptionally powerful play, portraying the horrors of war and ethnic rivalries, massacres and genocide, in all their gory details, and it forcefully addresses the importance of determining the factual truth in the face of conflicting Rashomon-like stories.  That alone makes this play well worth seeing.  But it doesn’t do nearly as good a job, I’m afraid, at resolving the deeper moral questions that are brought to the fore, relying instead on papering over real differences in a couple of kumbaya scenes.

The entire cast of five was excellent but I was especially impressed by Hubert Pont-Du Jour and Danyon Davis.  Mr. Pont-Du Jour’s nuanced portrayal of Paul as a Tutsi soldier with a stereotypical view both of Hutus and Americans, who had seen so much of death that it left him futilely longing for any sign of humor in life, was absolutely extraordinary.  In stark contrast to Mr. Pont-DuJour’s coldly controlled portrayal of Paul, Mr. Davis’ portrayal of Dusabi was all fiery intensity and raw emotion.  It all made for a striking contrast and wonderful theater.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Drop Dead Perfect Returns to Theatre at Saint Clements

L-R: Jason Cruz and Jason Edward Cook in DROP DEAD PERFECT.  Photo by John Quilty.
Drop Dead Perfect by Erasmus Fenn (whomever he might be) received rave reviews and played to sold-out audiences last year, prompting its current return to Theatre at St. Clements on West 46th Street in midtown Manhattan.  In its present incarnation, it features the same zany cast: Everett Quinton (in drag) as the wealthy and mentally unbalanced Idris Seabright; Jason Edward Cook (also in drag) as Vivien, Idris’ physically handicapped ward who is an aspiring sculptress; Jason Cruz as Ricardo, a mysterious Cuban stranger; and Timothy C. Goodwin who does double duty as Phineas Fenn (Idris’ lawyer) and as Phineas’ son (the play’s narrator).

Idris is taken to writing and re-writing her will (which appears to be Phineas Fenn’s main function) and to sketching stilllifes – which requires that her subjects really be still - even if that entails freezing her goldfish, waxing her apples, or killing and stuffing her dog.  She becomes especially deranged when Vivien announces her intention to leave Idris’ home and go to Greenwich Village to pursue an artistic career.  The arrival of Ricardo, who bears a striking resemblance to Idris’ former lover, and who is not above dallying with the affections of both Idris and Vivien, complicates matters still further.

The play is clearly intended as a star turn for Everett Quinton who does what he does and does it very well (though some might question why he bothers to do it in the first place).  But without detracting from Mr. Quinton’s performance, I must say that, much to my own surprise, I was far more impressed by Jason Edward Cook’s extraordinary dance performance.

Joe Brancato, the play’s director, has described the play as “a madcap romp that celebrates and satirizes movie melodramas, with a nod to both Alfred Hitchcock and Carol Burnett” and the play’s press release emphasizes that it is “laced with double-entendres and homages to 1950s television and Hollywood melodramas” and only is “recommended for those who possess a slightly twisted sense of humor and appreciation of slapstick TV comedies such as I Love Lucy and camp horror such as Hush Hush, Sweet Charlotte.”

I won’t disagree and, if you fall into that category (“those who possess a slightly twisted sense of humor and appreciation of slapstick TV comedies such as I Love Lucy and camp horror”), then this production might be right up your alley.  But if not, you may be disappointed, finding that the show’s double entendres, sophomoric ethnic humor, penis jokes, and persistent satirization of Lucille Ball really are more puerile than clever.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

James Lecesne Soars in The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey

James Lecesne is a highly accomplished and versatile writer and actor – and, even more importantly, a truly compassionate and admirable individual.  He has written three novels for young adults, including Absolute Brightness, from which he has adapted his play, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.  His acting credits include stints on Broadway, off Broadway, and in television.  He was executive producer of the documentary film After the Storm, which followed the lives of twelve young people in post-Katrina New Orleans.  And he wrote the screenplay for the Academy Award-winning short film Trevor, which inspired his co-founding of The Trevor Project, a nationwide suicide prevention and crisis intervention lifeline for LGBTQ youth.  Quite a resume.

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, currently being staged at the Westside Theatre on West 43rd Street in midtown Manhattan, revolves around the disappearance and murder of Leonard Pelkey, a flamboyantly gay 14-year-old, whose larger than life persona and absolute refusal to be anything other than what he was affected all around him.  In the course of the play, we never do meet Leonard but we come to know him nonetheless through the words of all of those whose lives he touched.

First among them is Chuck DeSantis, the hard-boiled detective in a small town on the New Jersey shore who investigates the Leonard Pelkey case.  DeSantis is played brilliantly by James Lecesne – who plays every other role in this extraordinary solo tour de force as well – and that includes Leonard’s “aunt” Ellen Hertle, the shrill proprietor of the local beauty parlor who first reports Leonard missing; Phoebe, Ellen’s 16-year-old daughter who finds herself called upon to act as Leonard’s schoolyard protector; Gloria Salzano, the widow of a mob boss who discovers one of the shoes Leonard was wearing at the time of his disappearance floating on the lake near her home; Marion, one of Ellen’s clients, who attempted unsuccessfully to convince Leonard to “tone it down”; the Germanic proprietor of a watches and clocks repair shop who related to Leonard as a result of his own nostalgic recollections of his own lost son; the pretentious proprietor of the theatre and dance studio where Leonard had been studying, who is a bit fearful that he might be accused of pederasty (whether pronounced in the British or American fashion) for merely offering car rides to some of the older boys at his studio; and one of Leonard’s bullying schoolmates, hung up on video games.  Lecesne plays them all with insightful precision, seamlessly switching from one character to another   It is a truly virtuoso performance.

The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey is, of course, a tragedy, as is any death, but most especially the unnecessary death of a child whose entire life still lay before him.  And it is, of course, a mystery: who killed Leonard Pelkey?  But it is much more than that, much more than a tragedy or a mystery: it is at one and the same time a revelation of the interconnectedness of all of us (underscored by Lescesne’s playing every role) and a celebration of our differences.  As Marion related it, Leonard once told her that “if he stopped being himself, the terrorists would win.”  And it is that sentiment which pervades this production and which results in the play being such an uplifting one, despite the tragedy of the unusual 14-year-old boy’s untimely death.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mac Brydon Stars in PIMM'S MISSION at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Mac Brydon and Ryan Tramont in PIMM'S MISSION.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Both Robert Pimm (Mac Brydon) and Thomas Blander (Ryan Tramont) are regulars at the pub in midtown Manhattan owned and operated by Jim (Brad Fryman). They meet there regularly on Sundays where their conversations range from Robert’s commiserating with Thomas over Thomas’ recent divorce, to Robert’s disclosure of his own corporate misadventures in Great Britain (which led to his current relocation in the US), to Robert’s insistence that Thomas try to find a true mission in life.  At this point, one might assume they are “friends,” although Robert is not prepared to go quite that far, quibbling extensively in the best Clintonian fashion on just what the meaning of “friends” is.

This Sunday, Robert is seated at the bar, nursing both a drink and a superficial wound to his head, just moments after an explosion at the nearby Zincorp building resulted in the deaths of 15 innocents - and Thomas is nowhere to be seen.  FBI Agent Staats (Daniel Morgan Shelley) and his sidekick, FBI Agent Charles (Patrick Hamilton), are canvassing the area in their search for clues.  In the course of their investigation, they encounter Robert who can’t quite seem to recall how he arrived at the bar but whose description, as it turns out, matches that of a man who was seen leaving the Zincorp building shortly before the explosion occurred. 

Subsequently, Staats learns that Thomas is an employee of Zincorp and that he works at its headquarters – in the very building in which the explosion just occurred.  And Jim reluctantly informs Staats that although he never quite overheard the details of Robert and Thomas’ many earlier conversations in the pub, it was clear to him that they were “discussing things” in a “pretty secretive” manner.

There’s not much more I can write about the plot of Pimm’s Mission without ruining its surprise ending - other than to say that, as the play evolves, it becomes increasingly evident that there is more to Robert and his relationship to Thomas than first meets the eye.  I will, however, give you one hint: if you’re justifiably concerned over the threat of Islamic terrorism, you may be a bit disappointed.  On the other hand, if you’re more politically “progressive” and inclined to perceive capitalism as a bigger bugaboo than Islamic terrorism, then you may find the play’s highly contrived conclusion to be more satisfying.

Notwithstanding that artificial contrivance, however, the play is very well written and quite entertaining.  It unfolds over a period of 75 minutes with no intermission in a series of sharply constructed bar scenes in which Staats is interrogating Robert, interspersed with flashbacks to scenes involving Robert, Thomas and Jim in the same bar on various Sundays preceding the day of the explosion.  Written by Christopher Stetson Boal and directed by Terrence O’Brien, Pimm’s Mission is currently receiving its US premiere at 59E59 Theaters in midtown Manhattan.  All of the cast members merit praise for their performances but Mac Brydon, bouncing back and forth from the present to the past and back again, delivers a truly bravura performance – one might even say a star turn - and deserves a special accolade.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summer Shorts 2015 Series A at 59E59 Theaters

L-R: Clea Alsip and J.J. Kandel in 10K.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Now in its ninth year, Summer Shorts 2015, the highly acclaimed annual festival of new American short plays, is currently being staged at 59E59 Theaters on East 59th Street in midtown Manhattan.  The festival consists of three one-act plays presented in each of two series running in repertory:  the plays in Series A are 10K by Neil Labute, Glenburn 12 WP by Vickie Ramirez, and The Sentinels by Matthew Lopez;  those in Series B are Built by Robert O’Hara, Love Letters to a Dictator by Stella Fawn Ragsdale, and Unstuck by Lucy Thurber.

Unfortunately, I won’t be seeing Series B this year.  But I did see Series A and I’m glad I did.  All three plays in this series are simply terrific and all of the actors’ performances are first rate across the board.

The three plays in Series A are situated in different venues and the characters in the three plays bear little superficial resemblance to one another.  The man (J. J. Kandel) and the woman (Clea Alsip) in 10K are two young married (but not to each other) joggers who meet by chance on a wooded jogging path. The characters in Glenburn 12 WP are Troy Davis (W. Tre Davis), an African-American hipster in his mid 20s, and Roberta Laforme (Tanis Parenteau), a Native American professional woman in her early 30s; they also meet by chance – but in an Irish pub near Grand Central, rather than in a park.  In The Sentinels, Alice (Meg Gibson), Kelly (Michelle Beck), and Christa (Kellie Overbey) are three widows who meet regularly over a period of years in the same coffee shop in the Financial District to commemorate their husbands’ deaths.  But despite these differences, there does appear to be a theme that ties these works together: in all of them, the characters have experienced losses and are forced to deal with them, each in his or her own way.

In 10K, the man and the woman realize that they are suffering from similar losses: both are married and parents but neither enjoys, within his or her own marriage, the personal and sexual pleasures that they once took for granted.  The woman’s husband travels constantly and is seldom home; the man’s wife hates the world.  Nor do their children provide them with the satisfaction that they thought they would.  Now, finding themselves stuck in unsatisfactory marriages, they resort to dreams and imaginative fantasies to provide what is lacking in their reality.  But will that be enough?

L-R: Tanis Parenteau and W. Tre Davis in GLENBURN 12 WP.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
In Glenburn 12 WP, Roberta, who is something of a regular at the pub, is mourning the loss of her friend Krystal.  Troy walks in, having tired of participating in a nearby protest movement, and Roberta engages him in conversation.  As it turns out, neither Troy nor Roberta are anything like what the other expected, and before the play ends, they’re bantering back and forth in a manner neither would have imagined possible, given the difference in their backgrounds and the stereotypical images that each had of the other’s ethnic and cultural heritage.  Kieran, the pub’s regular bartender, isn’t there and Roberta goes downstairs to search for him.  By play’s end, we realize how much more there is to Troy than we should have thought; we understand why Roberta is mourning Krystal; we find out what happened to Kieran; and we discover that Roberta deals with loss quite differently than do the joggers in 10K.

L-R: Meg Gibson, Kellie Overbey, and Michelle Beck in THE SENTINELS.  Photo by Carol Rosegg.
Finally, The Sentinels moves backwards through a series of scenes from 2011 to 2002 as Alice, Kelly and Christa meet annually to commemorate the losses of their husbands.  They all evolve over time and each deals with her loss in her own way: Alice throw herself into socio-political causes; Kelly remarries and is pregnant; Christa is just moving on.  Different strokes for different folks but it works for them.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Outstanding Revivals of BOY'S LIFE and BOY GETS GIRL at The Seeing Place Theater

L-R: Natalie Neckyfarow and Brandon Walker in BOY'S LIFE.  Photo by Russ Rowland.
Now in its sixth season, The Seeing Place, located on East 26th Street in Manhattan, is currently staging two exceptional revivals in repertory: Boy’s Life by Howard Korder and Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gilman.  It is the juxtaposition of these two plays, both focusing on gender relations, that resonates synergistically to enhance our appreciation of both.

Boy’s Life was originally produced in 1988, garnering a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize nomination at the time, but comes across as somewhat dated today.  Those were the pre-PC days, you may recall, when “no” meant “maybe,” “maybe” meant “yes,” and “nice girls” simply couldn’t be expected to actually say “yes” outright.  It was then that the idea that “boys will be boys” was well nigh acceptable and young women were taught to be wary of post-adolescent men only a few years out of college who might use any ruse – from lying to alcohol – to lure them into bed.

Three such men are Jack (Brandon Walker), Don (Alex Witherow), and Phil (Logan Keeler) who have evolved from being “campus cut-ups to wasted potentials” and who attempt to continue to live lives centering on cheap beer, drugs, and sexual conquests.  Jack is married to Carla (Candice Oden) and has a son but he doesn’t allow those minor details to stop him from attempting to pick up Maggie (Natalie Neckyfarow), nor from borrowing Phil’s or Don’s apartment to facilitate his afternoon trysts.

Phil and Don are a bit more sensitive than Jack (who is clearly the alpha male in the group) but both of them are just as much on the make.  Phil will say almost anything if he thinks it might enable him to re-connect with Karen (Mary Ruth Baggott) – and if he can cop a feel in the process, so much the better.  Don hooks up with Lisa (Brisa Frietas), a waitress and aspiring sculptress, and ultimately falls in love with her, but even that doesn’t prevent him from engaging in a one night stand with another mentally unstable girl (Olivia Baseman).

The play unfolds as a series of brief vignettes rather than as a linear story line and is most effective in doing so.  After 90 minutes of this, a full picture has emerged, reflecting the playwright’s view of men behaving badly.  Despite its being somewhat dated, Boy’s Life is still a thought-provoking and funny play.  And it provides a wonderful prelude to the even more powerful Boy Gets Girl that succeeds it.

L-R: John D'Arcangelo and Erin Cronican in BOY GETS GIRL.  Photo by Russ Rowland.
Boy Gets Girl was first produced in 2000 (by which time it should have been understood that “no” meant “no” even if the world was not quite ready to accept today’s ultra-PC and romance-suffocating “yes” means “yes” standard).  It was acclaimed by Time Magazine as the “Best Play of the Year” and I can readily see why.

In this excellent revival, Theresa Bedell (Erin Cronican), a highly intelligent and talented journalist, reluctantly agrees to go out on a blind date with Tony Ross (Daniel Michael Perez).  Their brief meeting goes well enough and she agrees to meet him again for dinner but, before that second encounter reaches its conclusion, she realizes that she has made a mistake and attempts to end their relationship.  It is not that she perceives anything particularly wrong with Tony; it is just that she doesn’t think that they have enough in common to justify the expenditure of her time when she’d rather devote herself to her career.

But Tony is not on Theresa’s wavelength and does not realize that “no” really does mean “no,” even as regards such mundane matters as meeting for a drink or dinner.  He persists in his attempts to woo her, telephoning incessantly, sending unwanted flowers on a daily basis, showing up unexpectedly at her office.  His persistence escalates to obsession, from that to stalking and, ultimately, to the most pathologically threatening behavior.

Theresa enlists the aid of her hapless secretary, Harriet (Emily Newhouse); of her boss, Howard Siegel (Einar Gunn); and of her co-worker, Mercer Stevens (Brandon Walker), but all to no avail.  Eventually she turns to the police as well and Detective Beck (Virginia Gregory) manages to assist her in establishing an alternate life for herself – one free of Tony but less than ideal.

Erin Cronican (who not only plays the lead role in Boy Gets Girl but also directed Boy’s Life) is absolutely sensational as Theresa.   She perfectly epitomizes the successful feminist in today’s world who finds herself forced to balance a variety of different relationships, including not only those with Tony, Harriet, Mercer and Howard but also that which develops between her and Les Kennkat (John D’Arcangelo), a successful director of soft-core films featuring big-breasted women.  Much of the success of this production must be attributed to her performance.

That is not to deny that Ms Cronican has been very ably supported in this production by the other members of The Seeing Place Theater’s ensemble cast.  Especially noteworthy are Mr. Gunn who plays the role of Howard with just the sort of paternalistic concern that Ed Asner brought to his relationship with Mary in the Mary Tyler Moore Show; Mr. D’Arcangelo, who manages to convey both sensitivity and smarminess in his role as Les; and Mr. Walker, who exhibits the range of his talent by bringing to his role of Mercer so much more restraint than was called for in his role as Jack in Boy’s Life (and, incidentally, who also directed Boy Gets Girl).

Mr. Korder, Ms. Gilman and The Seeing Place Theater all do seem to have predicated these plays on two assumptions with which I don’t necessarily agree.  The first is that male attitudes toward women are almost entirely a function of nurture or conditioning, rather than nature or genetics – that is, that men are attracted to women with large breasts because they have been conditioned by men like Len Kennkat to find large breasts attractive, not that men like Len Kennkat create the films they do, featuring women with big breasts because that is what men want to see.  In support of that contention, they cite such examples as the appeal of women with small feet among the Chinese or of women with long necks among some African tribes.  Surely, it is argued, such fetishes must be a result of conditioning, not genetics; otherwise they would be universal.

And certainly there is merit to that argument.  But the more we learn about evolution, it seems to me, the more we realize that more of our likes and dislikes than we ever imagined do have an evolutionary basis in the survival of our species, and I would have liked to have seen that alternative addressed rather than dismissed out of hand.

The second point on which I tend to disagree is with the plays’ implication that all men are on a spectrum when it comes to mistreating women – that the only difference between men like Jack and Don and Phil who are continually seeking to bed women, on the one hand, and psychopaths like Tony, on the other, is one of degree, not of kind.  To that end, in a very clever bit of casting, Brandon Walker appears as the insensitive, philandering Jack who attempts to conceal his marital state from Maggie in Boy’s Life and then as the much more sensitive and honorable Mercer in Boy Gets Girl.  But what I believe that is meant to suggest is that maybe they’re really not so different:  after all, why did Mercer neglect to tell Theresa he was married for so long?  And did you see the way he was massaging her shoulders?   Finally there is the coup de grace as Mercer admits that the thought of sleeping with Theresa had, indeed, once flashed before his mind.  Obviously, he’s no better than Jack.  (It’s all rather reminiscent of Jimmy Carter’s unfortunate statement to the effect that “I’ve looked at many women with lust.  I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times,” isn’t it?)

Sorry, but I can’t buy it.  Mercer’s not on the same spectrum as Jack but, even if he is, neither is on the same spectrum with Tony.  Men may behave badly in many different ways and to many different degrees, but psychopaths and stalkers are in an entirely different league.  This is the same objection that I have to the unfortunate tendency in today’s world to conflate rape with sexual harassment.  To be sure, sexual harassment is reprehensible but it isn’t rape and any attempt to conflate the two only trivializes the true horror of rape itself.

But I digress.  Whatever differences I might have with the playwrights or The Seeing Place Theater regarding their interpretations of male behavior, the fact remains that these are their plays, their ideas, and their productions, not mine, and they have every right to present them as they see fit.  And so they have – and most effectively, with considerable power and humor, I might add.  These are productions very much worth seeing.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Funny and Poignant SHOWS FOR DAYS at Lincoln Center

L-R: Dale Soules and Patti Lupone in SHOWS FOR DAYS.  Photo by Joan Marcus.
Drawing freely on his own experiences, Douglas Carter Beane,  a very talented gay playwright, has written a wonderfully funny and poignant fictionalized “coming of age” story that is sure to resonate not only with the gay community but with theatergoers of every possible sexual orientation.  In Shows for Days, currently premiering at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, Car (Michael Urie), the playwright’s 14 year old alter ego, who is tentatively beginning to explore his own sexuality, learns about the pleasure and pain of first love as well as how he might best confront the larger world around him.

With time to kill before taking the next bus home, Car wanders into a run-down community theater in Reading, Pennsylvania and finds more than he had bargained for.  Irene, a heterosexual, married, Yiddish-spouting, self-styled New York theatrical “maven” with delusions of grandeur (Patti Lupone) and Sid, a rough and tumble, down to earth “butch” lesbian, co-founded the little theatre group.  They are joined in their efforts to make a go of it by Clive, a gay African-American actor with a superficial resemblance to James Earl Jones (Lance Coadie Williams), Maria, a straight, melodramatic aspiring actress (Zoe Winters), and Damien, a duplicitous, self-serving bi-sexual narcissist (Jordan Dean).

As it turns out, the members of the group have big dreams but small resources and limited talent and they are called upon to make all sorts of questionable decisions and compromises.  To paraphrase a line from Irene: they don’t sell out but they do adapt to circumstances in their own financial self-interest.  Along the way, Car discovers his literary talent and just who he is: in making that role come alive, Mr. Urie is exquisitely charming and self-deprecating and the play’s success owes much to him.  Irene is forced to confront her own self-deceptions and in doing so, Ms Lupone is a force to be reckoned with.  Clive faces the hypocrisy inherent in his relationship with a closeted white Republican politician; Mr. Williams is splendid in that role as he seeks to reconcile the inconsistencies in his character’s own persona.  And Ms Soules is simply terrific as Sid, who would prefer to wield a sledge hammer than wear a dress - but who will wear a dress too, and to maximum effect, if that’s what it will take to keep the theater alive.