By Sam Affoumado
After originally premiering at the Cherry Lane Studio Theater HIM, a gay romantic comedy with a familiar “Hollywood is homophobic” theme, returns for an open-ended Off-Broadway run at the Soho Playhouse. The story, written and directed by Clifford Streit, chronicles the rise of an up-and-coming young actor Nick Cooper (Jon Fleming), who as a result of a breakthrough movie role, is on the threshold to film stardom.
Margo (Lindsay Goranson), his manipulative, power-hungry personal
manager, wants to make sure that her only money-making client appears, at least to the public, as a hot, eligible “heterosexual.” Her one obstacle is Nick’s boyfriend Matthew (Todd Alan Crain), a hopeful screenwriter, who Margo manages to push to the sidelines while introducing Nick to Rana (Georgia X. Lifsher), a hot, telenovela (Spanish soap opera) star. Margo easily convinces Nick to participate in an illusory romance with Rana despite Matthew’s emphatic objections.
The conflicts between Nick and Matthew seem insurmountable and Nick’s continued “heterosexual” charade sends Matthew packing. As with most romantic comedies, the conflicts are eventually resolved, the villain gets what’s coming to him or, in this case, her (Margo) and the romantic couple lives happily ever after.
The theme of Hollywood Homophobia is familiar and comparisons can be made to Douglas Carter Beane’s, The Little Dog Laughed, which had a brief run on Broadway in 2006. In Mr. Beane’s play, a top Hollywood agent aspires to make a movie from a hit New York play about male lovers. She desperately wants her fast-rising gay client to play the lead. To accomplish her goal, this power-hungry woman attempts to manipulate the writer into changing his story into a heterosexual romance, while keeping the sexual preferences of her client in the closet. Mr. Beane is a talented wordsmith. His shallow, hypocritical characters come to life and express themselves eloquently and he has the ability to throw in some witty one-line zingers in the process.
Unfortunately, the characters in HIM are not so articulate. They come across as two-dimensional representations rather than complex real people. Streit’s play is really a brief one-act composed of a series of sound bites rather than scenes that reveal his characters and the result feels unauthentic. His plot twists are predictable and much of what we see or hear is merely exposition. The scenes are short and choppy and the playwright’s occasionally witty one-liners might fare better on a television sitcom than the stage.
The cast is energetic, but they are unable to rise above the material with one exception. Todd Alan Crain’s portrayal of Matthew is convincing and sympathetic. Jon Fleming and James Sautter (Troy), Margo’s boy-toy, provide the evening’s worth of eye-candy.
HIM runs Monday & Wednesday – Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm. SoHo Playhouse is located at 15 Vandam Street, between Avenue of the Americas & Varick Street — accessible from the C&E trains at Spring Street or the #1 train at Houston Street.
Photography: Michael Mallard
Tickets are available at 866-811-4111 or www.sohoplayhouse.com.