Review by Sandi Durell . . .
A weekend in Palm Springs . . . a pool, hot tub . . . friends old and new. You’d think it would be a dream getaway. And it appears to be going in that direction at Second Stage Tony Kiser Theater on West 43 Street on the upscale, Jonathan Adler colorfully infused set (Arnulfo Maldonado) in this new comedy written by JC Lee (What You Are, Relevance).
Enter Curtis (a very upbeat, sure of himself, hot looking Jay Armstrong Johnson) who’s made a deal to rent Bernie’s (a distinguished looking Bryan Batt) house and invite friends who eagerly come from near and far to gather. Welcome to the gay community where it’s all about fun, games and sex as they refer to each other as “she” and ‘girl’. The one-liners ricochet like bullets and land on some of the audience who ‘get it’ and laugh incessantly but not for long.
Bernie is a very welcoming, quick-witted host chatting up Curtis, as he shows him where things are in the kitchen. Curtis is the ultimate promoter, as Castor (young, sweet, unassuming Maulik Pancholy) arrives. He worships Curtis and is secretly in love with him giving the impression of a sweet puppy dog. Next in is Leo all the way from NYC as they all embrace and squeal with delight. Leo busily gets right to filming himself and talking non-stop in his new surroundings as they each suggest a group song to sing and video for friendship’s sake – the first rendition they take on in drag is “When I Grow Up” to The Pussycat Dolls – – – funny!
It seems that Castor secretly invited an outsider, a pick up at a bar, to join the fray. The beautiful bodied Omar (Noah J. Ricketts) who initially appears in his underwear. They’re waiting on another friend Jeff (Carman LaCivita) who eventually arrives much later with another more serious and sad story to add to the frenzy that arises.
Personalities unveil very quickly as each challenges the other to reveal what’s really going on, relationships pale as truths and lies unfold as the weekend wears on. The conversation revolves around being gay, being accepted/rejected, the history of their plight, how their world turned upside down during the pandemic, and accusations fly as they drink incessantly. Topics of racism, white guilt and more are ever present as they talk about the reality of trying to squeeze themselves into a tiny box of gayness.
And it’s Curtis who takes the verbal beating at the end when his culpability is exposed because he’s not truthful, prioritizing himself first to orchestrate things in his best interest.
There’s nothing new being revealed in To My Girls nor shedding any new lights. Instead of elevating the gay community positively, this play seems to diminish who and what it stands for. Yes, there are some laughs, but as things take a more serious turn, the laughs are fewer and far between. Surely, Stephen Brackett (Be More Chill) is a fine director but he needs a script that will lend itself to his skillful directorial prowess. Sarafina Bush provides the colorful costumes designed to show off the well toned bodies. And acting is uniformly good. It’s just the script that doesn’t stand up.
The highlight in this weekend get-together – – the Pussycat Dolls routine – they all get out their wigs, high heeled shoes/boots and colorful outfits to sing and dance to the Pointer Sisters “Jump.”
To My Girls at 2dStage on West 43 Street, in a limited engagement runs 95 minutes thru April 24.
Photos: Joan Marcus