Soup's on!

What the F**k?!

By David Bell
Directed by Mark Ax ("F**k Off!") and Christopher Borg ("Starf**kers")
The Duplex Cabaret Theater (closed)
Review by Rebecca Longworth

A quick scan of the program revealed exactly what was on the menu at this TOSOS II production: "two short, campy comedies by David Bell." And everyone loves a menu that doesn’t mislead. To start, there was F**ck Off!, a behind-the-scenes peek at the actor/waitstaff of a trendy Manhattan theatre-district restaurant. For the main course, Starf**kers shows the equally intense action in the main dining room. The two made for deliciously light fare that might not feed the brain, but if laughter truly is healing, these dishy comedies surely nourished the soul.

Bell’s writing provides a crisp, energetic base to showcase the actors’ precise comic talents. Despite a sprinkling of laborious one-liners, it never weighs the action down in sloppy jokes that are going nowhere like an overlong Saturday Night Live sketch. His two pieces focus on different characters, have different directors, and are designed to stand on their own, but each complements the other perfectly -- not only in theme and structure, but also in the style and quality of the acting. Christopher Borg, the queeny non-working actor / professional waiter Jameson in F**k Off!, also directed Starf**kers, which may have contributed to the integrated nature of the pieces.

In the spare dining room during the matinee lunch rush, Jameson has his hands full with his assignment to Table 17, training Cody (Jason Bowcutt), who’s fresh off the bus from Texas, and keeping his slacker boyfriend, Mineral (Desmond Dutcher), out of Cody’s pants. As Jameson tutors Cody in his particular brand of New York bitterness, he’s so preoccupied with Mineral’s lasciviousness that neither are suspicious when Cody easily names Applebee’s, Chevy’s, and the Olive Garden as the worst waiting jobs in Manhattan. Starf**kers takes place at Table 17, populated by Sex and the City wannabes Darla (Carol Monda), Eric Estrada’s ex-wife who’s looking for her next hitch; Mindy (Shay Gines), who’s looking for the next guest on her cable-access show; and Tracey (the hilarious Dayna Steinfeld), who would be overjoyed just to have a bacon cheeseburger. Keeping them from attacking the Big Star, Braxton Mitchell (Gerry Downey), is the Waiter (Brett Douglas), who spent most of F**k Off! averting the fireworks in the spare dining room.

Sharing honors with Bell are the actors, who threw themselves into their roles (quite literally, in a few cases, many involving Jameson) with such gusto and good humor that one couldn’t help but love that Jameson was using Mineral for his rent-controlled Chelsea apartment, or that Mindy was constantly finding her spiritual self somewhere in her bosom. With the across-the-board character talent – especially from Borg and Steinfeld – one couldn’t have asked for a more fun evening … but wait! It’s cabaret, there’s a two-drink minimum. With the small stage and simple sets and lights (only the sound designer, Robert Auld, was credited), these plays relied on a fun script, stellar acting, and deft direction to produce a hugely entertaining evening — entertaining especially, though not exclusively, if you’re a gay man come to revel in being gay. As TOSOS II co-founder Doric Wilson would explain, this sort of theater is viable for exactly that reason: it’s out, loud, and proud gay theater. Yum.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Sets: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Rebecca Longworth