Friday, April 25, 2008
New York, Spring 2008 -- Day Nine, "The New Century"
I'm under attack. I'm not sure of my adversary's name or nature, all I know is he has gained a strategic foothold in my sinuses. It's a lovely spring in New York, flowers and trees everywhere are in bloom, and one or more of them has my number. My eyes are red and swollen and my nose is packed tighter than Times Square on New Year's Eve.
That said, I'm still not missing anything. I just have a little less energy to devote to reporting on what I see.
Last night's festivities included dinner at Cafe des Artistes (a lovely room, if you like that style, but such overrated food -- still, few options near Lincoln Center), followed by a performance of Paul Rudnick's evening of four short plays, "The New Century." All four deal with -- on one level or another -- the challenges of being gay (or related to someone who is) in a "post-gay" world where one's sexuality isn't supposed to matter (at least to civilized people) and yet somehow still does.
"Pride and Joy" is the first offering, and consists entirely of Linda Lavin speaking at a P.L.G.B.T.Q.C.C.C.&O. meeting. (That's Parents of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals,Transgendered, Questioning, Curious, the Creatively Concerned and Others.) Lavin is a stereotypical Jewish mother (all the characters in this show are stereotypes), who has three children who cross pretty much every sexual boundary possible. Yet, she still loves them. Just like she LOVED "Will & Grace." "They're so cute -- like if Pottery Barn made people!"
"Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach" trots out the biggest stereotype of the evening, a WAY over the top nelly queen who claims to be the gayest man on Earth. So gay he can turn someone homosexual with just a glance. So gay, in fact, that he has been banished from New York for being too gay and embarrassing the straight-acting gays who are trying to assimilate back into the broader culture. Mr. Charles hosts a public access show in Palm Beach, Florida. His co-host is boy toy Shane, who wants a show of his very own. Mr. Charles zings one biting comment after the other, including one of the biggest laugh lines of the night when he explains how to tell if the man next to you at the theater is gay: "He's saving his Playbill. And he's awake." He also gives an amazing encapsulation of the history of gay theater in 60 seconds.
In the second half, things start to drift. The stupendous Jayne Houdyshell portrays Barbara Ellen Diggs in "Crafty." Diggs never met a pair of pinking shears or a bolt of rickrack or an embroidery frame she didn't like. She keeps busy with crafts partly to dull the pain of having lost her son to HIV 20 years earlier. Houdyshell is wonderful as usual, but this is the weakest of the four pieces.
The closing bit, "The New Century" finds all four characters back together -- this time in a Manhattan maternity ward. A few more funny lines hit their targets -- but the allergens are hitting their targets inside my sinuses, so it's off to bed for me.