By: Sandi Durell
When the cast starts singing show tunes around a piano in a pre-opening scene, one can’t be sure if this is a play or a cabaret show that just opened at the Pershing Square Signature Center. Well, have no fears . . . it’s newcomer Mark Gerrard’s smartly written, fast-paced, comedy-drama about gay couples facing life issues like domesticity, cheating, betrayal, aging, dying and friendship in a rousing and raunchy peek into a world that feels a little frayed at times, in this contemporary biosphere of gay-dom that has its own language.
It’s a yummy New Group offering with an amazing cast of characters!
Two gay couples, peppered with one lesbian friend, dying of cancer, are celebrating a middle-aged (47) birthday at an upscale NYC restaurant. The birthday boy is Steven – a never made it chorus boy with intimacy issues (wonderfully comic Matt McGrath) and his husband Stephen, a somber-type lawyer (Malcolm Gets – the piano player) with an out of control son at home who likes to steal things. With them are long-time friends Matt (the always hilarious Mario Cantone . . . just a facial expression says it all), lesbian buddy Carrie (broad and brassy Ashlie Atkinson) and Matt’s partner Brian, a trainer at a gym (hunky Jerry Dixon). Steven, Carrie and Matt were all singing waiters together many years back. They are served by cute, flirtatious, Argentinean waiter, Esteban (Francisco Pryor Garat) a dancer, who keeps showing up.
Steven’s suspicions rise when he grabs Stephen’s cell phone seeing sexting going on between him and Brian while Carrie has been left to her own devices when her lover left and the men are her only true support.
As Stephen’s infidelity becomes a reality, Steve’s anger drives him to a do unto others with Esteban. There is an all-too funny scene as Stephen juggles phones in conversation with his mother while trying to keep up with the all-too explicit sex-ting (projected on the slider screens in the rear – projection design Olivia Sebesky) with Brian.
It’s all very gay-rated Terrence McNally-ish and clichéd with enough use of the “F” word to last a lifetime. Matters rise to a fever pitch, with lots of theater jokes and lines splayed throughout, references to Kristin Chenoweth, Audra McDonald and Tammy Grimes, along with Sondheim classic song lyrics finding their natural place.
Applause to Cynthia Nixon who does a fine job directing this uber-talented cast. You’ll laugh, you’ll tear up and I won’t spoil the clever bows!
Steve – Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre (480 West 42nd St.) 90 minutes, extended thru January 3.
Photos: Monique Carboni