|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.