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Fucking Men – Los Angeles Theater Review

 

THE BOYS IN THE BEDROOM

 

picture - Fucking MenTheater Review

by Harvey Perr

published October 2, 2009

 

Fucking Men

now playing in Los Angeles at the Celebration Theatre

through October 25

 

In the fifth of the ten scenes which comprise Joe DiPietro’s Fucking Men, a free-wheeling adaptation of Arthur Schitzler’s La Ronde, the production at Celebration Theatre finally takes hold and grips its audience in an irresistible vise and doesn’t let go right through the next three scenes. But more about that later.

 

In this scene, Leo (Sean Galuszka, who looks too young in the previous scene to be the older man he is supposed to be), is at home with his lover, Jack (David Pevsner), thrashing out the question of whether, after eleven years together, monogamy is still viable. Arguably the best single moment in Schnitzler’s original play, it remains faithful in spirit to it, but, at the same time, enters the world of contemporary gay politics with urgency, humor and, not least of all, genuine theatrical flair. The performances of Galuszka and Pevsner have a great deal to do with it; they play together with an ease and fluency and intimacy that makes one feel as if one has actually been given a private peek into their bedroom. We know these men; they are us and we are them. It could be said that this is ultimately what real theater is all about.

 

The play is a roundelay of ten couples, in which the one encountered in the first scene is then followed to his next encounter, and that one links to another until, finally, the original individual is encountered by the ninth, thus completing the mating dance that has transpired.  So, in the scene following the one just referred to, Jack brings Ryan (Jeff Olson), a budding porn star, to a hotel room he has rented for the occasion. Some of the fun and games you’d expect from this union are certainly there, but, again, because of the exquisite timing and the flickering sense of truth which Pevsner and Olson bring to it, something deeper and more poignant comes through. Behind the façade of Olson’s cliché-ridden hunk, there is a real human being struggling to get out, and no mask can hide the hurt in his eyes which reveal a loneliness and vulnerability which comes as an unexpected surprise and asks us to look with fresh eyes at what could easily have been another gay stereotype.

 

Next, Ryan gets picked up by an edgy young playwright, Sammy (A.J. Tannen), who is, naturally enough, thrilled to be so heatedly close to a gorgeous porn star. Like all the scenes, it is essentially comic, but which insists, just the same, upon a more serious contemplation of the various possibilities of human experience. Tannen seems to have done some close-up examination of some real playwrights (Tony Kushner and Justin Tanner come to mind) in his creation of the character, but, if he hasn’t done so, the behavioral tics he has nevertheless come up with are deliciously on target and hilariously funny.  And, again, despite the laughter he generates (and it should be pointed out that the writing of this particular character is pretty brilliant), we feel in Tannen that he probably is a very serious writer under all that nervous chatter and awkward body language.

 

And Brian Dare’s John, the prostitute who acts as the bookend for the evening, being the first and last in the round of characters, is simple and direct and full of authentically tender charm. And though there is a lot of tantalizing nudity and it is all rather tastefully done, what is really on naked display here is its human truth.

 

Credit for these performances must go to Calvin Remsberg, whose direction is clearly attuned to psychological accuracy as well as to the flowing movement of the play itself.  And yet the play flounders a bit until that fifth scene and falls apart a bit just when it is reaching what should have been its powerfuI and compassionate conclusion. It may just be that the rest of the cast, though good enough, is not in the same league as the aforementioned actors; it may be that the writing is not as strong, though it is always crisp and free of the obvious. There is certainly nothing wrong with the splendid technical work: Tom Buderwitz’ set, Jeremy Pivnick’s subtle lighting design, and Lindsay Jones’ sound all contribute eloquently to the evening, and everyone, in unison, works to keep the confines of the Celebration’s acting space from ever seeming cramped.

 

Indeed, with so much lovely work, and some work that is downright terrific, and a handful of performances that are as good as you’ll find anywhere, it may seem churlish to complain about its weaknesses. Indeed, this reviewer suggests you rent the Max Ophuls masterpiece La Ronde and compare how close to Schnitzler (or Ophuls) DiPietro’s Fucking Men comes while bringing us so vividly into the brave new world of homosexual sensibility. In brief, despite its shortcomings, Fucking Men should not be missed whether you are gay or straight,.

 

harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com

 

 
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