GWM Needs Discipline!

Welcome to Chelsea

By Martin Outzen
Directed by Joe Ametrano
The Glines
Grove Street Playhouse
39 Grove Street 330-7200
Non-union production (closes July 26)
Review by Marshall Yaeger

First of all, the evening was as huggable as Martin Outzen, the author-cum-lead actor-cum-cuddly doll.

That said, there was a lot of cutting and pasting that needed to be done, preferably by a dramaturg dealing sternly with Outzen. But when an author plays the lead and co-produces, what can you do?

The playwright's honorable intentions were probably to write a play about the meaning of life. But to trundle "meaning" into a body-conscious gay lifestyle is about as promising as finding God in Bloomingdale's basement. To succeed, Outzen might have had to stifle the hilarious, sitcommish one-liners, and thank goodness he didn't do that!

Although the end of the play suggested that hearts and flowers are superior to the kind of Ecstasy that pours out of tiny bottles and 10" penises, the author's dramaturgy made a weak case. For one thing, the shallow antagonists seeking superficial perfection seemed more reasonable than the priggish hero. "What happened to fabulousness, and making everything pretty?" one character asked. "Isn't that why we became gay in the first place?"

That line got a strong hand from the packed and knowing audience.

Beyond that point, the author pumped up the drama as artificially as the steroid musclemen who walk funny and bulge in odd places.

The director also could have done better. For example, some business with a private journal in Act One, as portentous as a Chekhovian gun, was staged without imagination. It fizzled completely by the end of the play.

The sexual tension between Outzen's character and his low-keyed love interest (Kelly Corvese) sparked nicely, though the actors seemed mismatched in energy and acting comfort.

There was nothing low-key about Richard Guido, who played a "full-figured" decorator, wafting in, waving pitchers of Cosmopolitans. He was better in a lip-synching segment (where he didn't have to pay close attention to the other actors) than when he cocked his verbal gun and waited for a cue to fire. His ballistic acting style got annoying.

Stephen Charles Lincoln as a decadent hunk was best. Dressed up, at one point, like a sheriff on top, a cowboy on the bottom, and an S&M master somewhere in between, he looked brilliantly absurd.

Rob Wolin designed a neat set, and hung credible interpretations of the main character's artwork (sculpted by Andrew Fishbein) on the wall. Scott Davis's lights were fine, and the use of disco and retro music nicely punctuated the action.

Outzen has a gift for comedy that sliced right through the sludgy melodrama. Those who support his talent need to be more mercilessly demanding.

Why not? He may soon be capable of real perfection.

Box Score:

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

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Copyright 1998 Marshall Yaeger