The supposed "big" moment in Steven Dawson's Big Dicks on Stage, being performed in the Gay Plays Series at Wings Theatre Company, is when John (Robert Mascarenas) and Michael (Darrell Kirton) take off their clothes for each other before they actually have to do it in the play within the play. The scene, despite a sensitive touch by the two actors, is gratuitous and, for all its naked glory, unsexy and-well, let's say, dramatically flaccid.
The play, by Australian playwright Steven Dawson, loses much in its Americanization. Many of the jokes flew over the audience's head or just fell flat. Further, never are the characterizations clever enough to have risen over the mere cliches that they were.
It's never understood whose play Big Dicks actually is. If the play's about playwright Daniel Ryan (Henry Beylin)'s fight for integrity in his art, then shouldn't he have tried to stop the gratuitous nudity in his play more actively and taken director Brian (Brian Schneider) and producer Henry (Gene Manuel) to task? Daniel for all his moral outrage sits around and complains to us about how no one takes his plays seriously. Who could! If the play is about John and Michael dealing with their own ups and downs of being lovers (one supposedly straight) and working on a play together, then it would benefit the production if we knew when they were actually performing the play and when they were not.
Most of the time, the audience was baffled by bits of information
from the two lovers that seem to come from left field. The play
seemed to be, for all the wrong reasons, about set designer Terry
and lesbian stage manager Rawanda (both played by Jack Forbes)
who are the minor characters who supplied most of the entertainment
of the evening. Forbes's performance was stellar and well-detailed,
flipping and flopping between the flamboyant Terry and the tough
Rawanda. The scene where Terry's $20,000 set can't fit through
the tiny doors of the theatre, sending the play within the play's
production team into a spin, was the high point of the evening.
Most of the others in the cast didn't fair nearly as well. Henry Beylin's Daniel Ryan was incoherent and incomprehensible. He replaced actions and motivations with whines and false mechanical inflections and tics. Mascarenas and Kirton had some chemistry, although much of their work seemed to be indicated ratherthan actual true behavior. Schneider's performance as Brian (the director) seemed more a cartoon than an actual full-bodied performance. Only Gene Manuel, who played the seedy producer and the loopy publicist Biggles, and Pierre Renfer in various roles, seemed to be in the right ballpark.
The set, by director Robert Hollinger, was simpler than his own direction and worked 10 times more effectively. The lights, by Martin Vreeland, were quite lovely, setting a warm wash over the messy proceedings.
Copyright 2000 Andrès J. Wrath
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