Life’s a dreg


By Vincent Caruso
Directed by James Martinelli
Midtown International Theatre Festival
Where Eagles Dare Theatre
347 West 36th St., ground fl. (; 212/868-4444)
Equity showcase (closes Aug. 7)
Review by Michael D. Jackson

Playwright Vincent Caruso must think the public is in need of a wake-up call to the flagrant disregard for sexual responsibility in this continuing age of AIDS. With reports of drug use and easy sex on the rise, there is indeed a need for some kind of social commentary to draw attention to the ramifications of the dangerous behavior, by all accounts running rampant in the big city. Caruso has picked a hot topic for his one-act play showing how the combination of sexual abandon and drugs makes for the downward spiral of humanity. The story is told through the exploits of three gay men, two friends and another stranger who, on one rather drunken night out, meet up at a bar and engage in a three-way. That first date starts a series of self-indulgent sexually based events that eventually leads to an ugly end.

This heavy play dragged on interminably, though it actually lasted only 90 minutes. Director James Martinelli did not help the proceedings much, as the pace got deadly about halfway through. A concentration on pace and rhythm from the director, along with help from the playwright in the area of creating clean and swift transitions, might have tightened the production and helped it immensely. However, there would still be the problematic repeating of information to contend with, either by an actor searching for his next line, or in the writing itself. There is an almost complete lack of humor, accept for a few rare occasions. There is almost nothing in the way of true redemption -- no sign that a light shines through the darkness of this debased life, or that a character the audience cares about will somehow pull himself up out of the muck and show us that although life is ugly and hard, it is still worth living and peace and harmony and health are attainable. No, not even the last scene, which feebly attempts to rectify this wrong, can give a sense of hope for the pitiful gay men of Manhattan. Although there are hints of warmth between the men, they treat each other with such disrespect, that it is difficult to warm up to any of them.

The acting of this difficult play was handled durably by Frank Stasio as Michael, a middle-aged man who befriends the 19-year-old Joseph, in a sweet performance by Clay Drinko. Jack McGowan emerged as a most fascinating psycho of the Hitchcockian kind, adding sardonic humor to the production in his quirky, well-rounded performance of a sexual addict. For those who require nudity in their gay plays, this one has more than enough, including a meandering strip-poker sequence.

The topic of the play is timely and necessary. The telling of it in the form of this play forsook the art of entertainment and in the end, lost the power to deliver its message as well as it might have.

Box Score:

Writing: 0
Directing: 0
Acting: 1
Set: 0
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Michael D. Jackson