Party at NW Actors Studio
Also see David's review of Ming the Rude
There's a merry Party going on at NW Actors Studio, and I am happy to not be a party pooper as I report that Gaydar Productions' Seattle premiere of David Dillon's gayer than laughter comedy is a happy fit in this venue, located in the heart of Seattle's gay-friendly Capitol Hill neighborhood. Not since the heyday of the Alice B Theatre and Greek Active's Re-bar spectaculars has Seattle seen such an unapologetically "out" piece of gay theatre.
Dillon's play is always updated with topical and city specific references; this party takes place in the Capitol Hill abode of Kevin, a theatrical director, who is a much friendlier party host than Mart Crowley's Michael of Boys in the Band. With his campy best friend Ray acting as de-facto co-host, a showtune loving priest (reminiscent of a similar character in Paul Rudnick's play Jeffrey), Kevin has invited five other friends over for an evening, the centerpiece of which is a Truth or Dare sort of game, called Facts and Fantasies. Dillon gives all of the characters good to great laugh lines and fair to middling dramatic revelations and monologues. And by the end, they all have their clothes off. That concludes the plotting of the play, which is featherweight fluff when compared against others such 1990s gay plays like Jeffrey, and Love, Valour, Compassion. But in the capable hands of director Rick Anderson, a veteran of the off-Broadway company, it makes for a carefree and at times warmly endearing night at the theatre.
Anderson has selected the right cast for the job; a couple of the boys in this band are "model pretty," but in general they look and act like real people. Jeffrey Gilbert makes Kevin the kind of person anyone would want as a best friend, while Chris Maltby as Father Ray is so at home with the gay showqueen banter that he could easily be the love-child of Elaine Stritch and Charles Nelson Reilly. Will Halsey's charmingly flirty Brian is the first to take it all off, and he exudes comfort with the task and with his entire being. Colby Christopher is Andy the na´ve baby of the group, and he makes the character's journey from shy and clueless to comfortable and outgoing most believable. The sharply written exchanges between Maltby's all-knowing vintage Broadway/movie buff and Christopher's generation X cutie are adeptly handled by both actors. Jonathan Reis offers a nice contrast as James, the more mature leatherman in the group. Aaron Holsworth, and David Royer also contribute nice moments in the sketchier roles of Peter and Phillip.
The attractive though uncredited set for Kevin's apartment is an accurate picture of many gay friends' homes in Capitol Hill (including my own!). I suspect that the show could extend well beyond its scheduled November 9 closing date. It's a quick, fun evening of theatre that earns genuine laughs, and to borrow a song title from a gay 1990s musical revue When Pigs Fly, this is a time when "Laughing Matters" to patrons plunking down $25 for a night out.
Party runs through November 9 at NW Actors Studio, 110 E Pike on Capitol Hill, at 8 pm Fridays, 7 & 10 pm Saturdays, and 7 pm Sundays. For tickets call (206) 267-2750, or order on-line at www.UpTownTix.com.