Monday, August 21, 2006

Review - Moral Values: A Grand Farce, or Me No Likey The Homo Touch-Touch (NY International Fringe Festival)

Stage Buzz Review by Byrne Harrison

It’s the very near future and the conservatives’ nightmare has come true: gay marriage has been made legal. Not only that, but the President has gone so far as to legislate that every family in the United States take in a gay, married person for two weeks as part of the new program called GESS (Gays Educating Scared Straights).

Despite his rabid patriotism, John Smith (Josh La Casse) is having none of it. The very thought of having one of ‘those people’ in his house is enough to make him want to . . . well, jump through a plate glass window, as it turns out. He doesn’t want to risk having his adoring wife, Margaret (Carrie McCrossen), jock son, Michael (Roger Lirtsman), innocent daughter, Stacy (Maria McConville), and adorable moppet, Billy, perverted by a deranged homosexual. Never mind, of course, that Margaret is about to leave him for Estaban (Graham Skipper), the mailman. Or that Michael is a steroid freak and Stacy has an internet sex show. And Billy . . . well no one can really remember the last time they saw him. But they’re sure he’s fine.

Enter the deranged homosexual, Steve (Isaac Oliver), who as it turn out is a meek, normal looking guy who is not in the least bit trying to destroy Western civilization. While being menaced by John, who starts spinning out of control, Steve attempts to bond with the rest of the family, as mandated by law. After becoming friends with the kids, he confesses his big secret. He’s straight. The government didn’t have enough homosexuals to participate in their GESS program (even after forcing all of them to), so it resorted to drafting men who were suspected of being gay. Metrosexuals beware.

As would be expected in a show with ‘farce’ in the title, much of this show is deliciously over-the-top. In fact, the main weakness is that it doesn’t let itself go nearly as much as it could. The most ludicrious moments, John leaping through a window, Estaban ripping open his shirt to expose his bull tattoo, the introduction of Binky, John’s childhood toy and voice of reason, all of those were hilarious. The finale of the play, an ecstatic dance number that had the audience clapping and laughing, had the prolonged intensity that the rest of the play only had in flashes. And ultimately, this play needed more of that.

Ian McWethy’s script was good and he dealt with complicated and touchy subjects with a deftly amusing hand, though at times it seemed that he wrote it while channeling Seth MacFarlane. Director Jeffrey Glaser did a good job, though the show would have been better had he really pushed the absurd aspects.

The cast was excellent. As John, Josh LaCasse was a dervish of anger and red-faced frustration. The scene where he relived, or possibly imagined, a homosexual encounter from his college days was priceless. Carrie McCrossen was funny as Margaret, especially in her scenes with Estaban, but it was as an Automated Voice on a phone menu that she truly excelled. Roger Lirtsman and Maria McConville played well off on another, and they had the teenage sibling relationship down perfectly. Graham Skipper was amusing as Estaban, but a little of that character went a long way. As Binky, the wise plush toy who tries to pull John from the edge of madness, he was brilliant. Isaac Oliver’s Steve was inoffensively amusing in a Jon Cryer sort of way. His bemused frustration was fun to watch and his phone scene with McCrossen was wonderful.

Richardon Jones, who played damn near everyone else in the show, was fantastic. His turn as a predatory frat boy was hilarious. With respect to LaCasse, I would have liked to have seen what Jones would have done with John Smith. Looking older, he might have been a more appropriate choice for that role than the young-looking LaCasse.

Production values for the show were not great. The lighting especially was disappointing and often left characters delivering their lines from shadows. I imagine this had more to do with the show having to share its space with other productions, rather than a poorly thought out lighting design. At least the lack of scenery made set changes quick and they didn’t skimp on Binky’s costume with was great.

All in all, this was an amusing play and a solid production. With a little more time and money, and a ‘throw caution to the wind’ attitude, it could have been even better.

Take a minute to visit the website. It’s really nicely done.

Written by Ian McWethy
Directed by Jeffrey Glaser
New York International Fringe Festival