Heaven – Off Broadway Theater
THEY SHARE EVERYTHING BUT THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION
by Cindy Pierre
published November 8, 2009
Made in Heaven
now playing at the Soho Playhouse
through January 3, 2010
been in a relationship or two, chances are you've made some concessions and compromises for the sake of your partner. That's par for the course. Yet, while everyone has their own
threshold for tolerance, many will acknowledge that there are certain things that are just unacceptable. Jay Bernzweig's satirical comedy, Made in Heaven, takes some of those things, swirls them around, and
exploits them. The results sometimes alternate nicely between hilarious and poignant, but most
are stuck on being over-the-top and silly.
results are not the only things that are “stuck.” Brothers Max (Kevin Thomas Collins) and Benjie
(Alex Anfanger), conjoined twins at the hip, are stuck on each other and sharing much more than the same space and a leg. In the video game of life, they play women and situations, but there's only one joystick between
them. That's right. Max and Benjie share a
penis. But right before they propose to their girlfriend, Jessica (Maia Madison, channeling and
resembling Bette Midler), Benjie reveals that they're split in sexuality much like they're split at their torsos, because he's
Unbelievable? I think yes. If the
circumstances weren't harried enough, they really get wild when the brothers begrudgingly try to make each other happy by continuing the
relationship with Jessica and adding boy-toy-for-hire Gilbert (Matthew Bondy) to the equation for Benjie. Emotions get criss-crossed as do bodies, and sooner than later, this peculiar menage-a-quatre starts
breaking down when each party realizes that they're settling for something less than what they want or need.
wants or needs are ignored. Between four characters that all have different tastes (or no taste
at all) that compete with their feelings, there's more than enough indulging on the stage going on. In fact, that is where director Andrew Shaifer's strength lies.
Hands on flesh, lips on lips, Shaifer draws out the comedy in sexually frustrating situations.
Even practical needs are handled well under his direction. He turns a nighttime trip to the
bathroom for the twins into a funny, albeit exaggerated, ordeal by giving attention to detail where attention is due.
Unfortunately, not every aspect of the production gets the same treatment.
Although the image of Collins and Anfanger in costume designer Jeffrey Wallach's supersized pair of jeans is immediately funny, the fitting
doesn't support the notion that their hips should be fused together. Although it should be more challenging for two actors to be stuck
together, Collins and Anfanger approach it like they're walking a three-legged race rather than living out the real thing. Lex Liang's set doesn't allow for the twins to potentially do the same activity at the same
time. Matching side tables are adjacent to a standard-sized couch when a loveseat would make
it much more plausible for the tables to be used, and the dining ware isn't even set up for practicality. Kia Rogers' lighting cues are
sometimes too sharp, and the stage sometimes dims before a moment or sentiment concludes.
light is taken away, light is also given. Amid the crazy antics and improbable plot, Bernzweig
uses the characters – Jessica especially – to make some strong statements about self-worth and endurance. Each time she rolls with the punches of her unraveling relationship, we sigh for her and question our sense
of what normal and abnormal are. The fact that she has issues that compel her to accept each
troublesome element as it comes adds a different, reality-based level to the game.
Heaven may not feature any matches that you think are great,
but with a little luck, it may make you analyze yours. If you can set aside all the excess and
pardon the places where there should have been more, you might get some thoughts to go along with your laughs.