An unrehearsed understudy with script in hand, 20 years older and 20 pounds heavier than the role called for, was the least of the problems plaguing David Gaard's dreary eXs.
Set in contemporary San Francisco, the pretentiously titled eXs explores what happens when Ted (John Jordan) and Lane (the yeoman Frank Laurents), a 20-something couple of long standing, inexplicably break up and are launched into an intermissionless, two-hour excavation of every bitchy gay cliché in the book. Billed as comedy, a little bit of The Women, a smidgeon of The Boys in the Band, and a whole lot of Tales of the City have been mixed into an unseemly, noxious brew that produced snickers of laughter in all of the right places for all of the wrong reasons.
Everyone in Gaard's script is a fabulous homosexual: wealthy, good-looking, intelligent, sexually active, and healthy. They are also one of the nastiest bunches of shallow sexual predators ever assembled on a stage, Clare Booth Luce notwithstanding. And as written and directed by Gaard, there is not one shred of the humanity that would make them sympathetic; yet neither are they the larger-than-life caricatures that would make them at least watchable. Everything is done for effect, but the effect is akin to the distortion in a fun-house mirror - if this had been written and directed and performed by a group of straight men from Kenosha, it might have been explained; that it was written and performed by a mostly gay company, in New York no less, is almost unforgivable.
With only two exceptions, the actors gave careless performances. Greg Solomon found the tiny measure of truth in his character and managed to spin it into something resembling a human being; no small feat indeed. Jordan, as the searching Ted, had only one note to play all evening long, yet he discovered as many shadings as possible within that one note. If only he hadn't had a minor temper tantrum during the curtain calls (he apologized to the audience for the performance they had just witnessed - a lovely sentiment, but singularly inappropriate for any aspiring professional). And a nod must be given to the miscast but game understudy, Frank Laurents, who performed with as much grace as possible in an impossible situation.
The physical production was on par with the rest of the evening - unfinished and singularly ugly. The "ten elaborate sets" promised by the press releases were laughable even by the standards of the poorest theatre company: splatter-painted sheets for backdrops, ratty basement furniture, plastic bar ware, etc., stood in for the "fabulously decorated" world these moneyed characters supposedly live in. The costumes (when worn) were even more exasperating: undoubtedly culled from the closets of performers whose sartorial tastes (and budgets) didn't match those of their onstage counterparts, they betrayed their origins with distressing fidelity. (Sets and costumes by Sylvia Bagaglio.) Mike Davis's lighting was bright and exposed everything, including the dust bunnies gathering at the base of the backdrops.
(Also featuring Adam S. Barta, Marty Murphy, Bobby G. Pierce, Joshua Polenberg, and Neal Utterback)
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Copyright 2002 Doug DeVita