Your name is what?

Lost in Fairyland

By Andrew Biss
Directed by Ryan Davis
Conspiracy Theatre Company
Café Cashama
111 West 42nd St. (206-1515/
Non-union production (closes October 6)
Review by David Mackler

In Andrew Biss's Lost in Fairyland, Warren (Ryan Frank) could be quantified as a thinker, while Aldous (Nick Malone) is the doer. Warren is the one who has existential crises, and Aldous essentially says stop worrying, stop thinking so much. At the beginning of the play, Warren is a prostitute, and Aldous is his customer. But while not a lot of the play will develop as might be expected, it doesn't seem to be about much either. It's awfully hard to dramatize a character's existential crisis, particularly when all the other character wants to do is get into his pants.

But this is not a gay version of Never on Sunday. Aldous is quite a, well, he's something of a jerk, but he doesn't have any problem with his adapting reality to conform to his needs. He wants to sleep with men? Fine! So it doesn't bother him that he's getting married -- it's just none of his wife's business. ("Life's about positioning yourself," he says -- his wife-to-be is the boss's daughter.) And so what if he says his name is Aldous? It's obvious to Warren that the name is lifted from his copy of Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza, and it tells the audience three things: Warren's bedtime reading is several steps above Jacqueline Susann, that semi-autobiographical literary novels from the '30s are way beyond "Aldous"'s caring, and the playwright has more on his mind than trysts between a hustler and his johns. (Besides, the play is called LOST in Fairyland, not WELCOME to Fairyland.)

So they meet, accidentally and on purpose, over the course of a year. Each time Warren is deeper and deeper into his crisis of identity as a gay man (he's also given up hustling), and Aldous is refining his identity as, well, whatever he is, but it definitely includes more sex with men. More than once Warren parries Aldous's physicality with "How's your wife?" (touché, Warren!), but Aldous has no compunction about his life. "She's not interested most of the time, I'm not interested any of the time" he says, and there's no reason to doubt him. But by that juncture, the point of the play has come into doubt (and it raises the questions of where is this play set? And when?). Aldous's wife suddenly seems more interesting than he is, and scenes between them might have given the play the spark it's lacking. No new ground is broken when Warren and Aldous, at a club, discuss the purpose and merits of a sad, not terribly attractive transvestite who's dancing to the beat of his/her own drummer. It's more speechifying than character revealing, but it was nice to see the characters outside of Warren's bedroom, even if it meant Aldous's not quite believable statement that he'd never been to the club before, and Warren's agonizing about being a regular, even though he really doesn't like the place.

Frank and Malone pretended that it all mattered, and Ryan Davis's direction was limited by the theater's configuration -- a semi-thrust playing area and a platform on the back wall where the club scene was staged, even though it looked barely wide enough for a parade of Egyptians. The lighting (uncredited) could have been more consistent, but at some points the whole stage seemed lit by a huge spotlight, which gave it a semi-romantic feel. There was a DJ up above on stage left (James Tung) who played inoffensive dance music over scene changes, which then very effectively elided into the scene in the club.

So Warren's a romantic, and Aldous wants what he wants when he wants it. By the end Warren is distraught at his conclusion that he's not all that comfortable in the gay world, and that he simply, impossibly, wants to fit in everywhere. Finally -- the play is about something! But unfortunately, that's where the playwright has decided to end the story, right after Aldous rather stagily, and unsurprisingly, reveals his real name.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 2002 David Mackler