Omar (Peter Macdissi) knows how to look good naked. Very good. Similarly, writer Alan Ball knows how to find the pulse of his self pitying, self destructive characters in ALL THAT I WILL EVER BE.
Ball, whose knack for writing has produced such works as SIX FEET UNDER and AMERICAN BEAUTY deftly turns a stereotype into an all consuming, all engrossing presence. Even more exacting is his sense of dialogue and the way he captures social nuance. In fact, the entire first act, structured around several quick scenes, runs like a series of digital photos or a video wall in which the characters’ poses speak volumes.
Unfortunately, though, that’s as much as ALL THAT I WILL EVER BE will ever be! The title ironically sums up the lack of depth that distinguishes these characters and ultimately makes for a pointless story, one whose resolution is not at all redeeming.
Essentially the tale follows two gay boys in LA. One, a spoiled rich kid lost in his sense of personal despair. When the hooker he’s with asks him why he doesn’t get a life, he replies with a series of “don’t wants” like, “I don’t want to live in the real world, don’t want to take CNN’s word for what’s happening, don’t want to have kids, don’t want to produce any more batteries for the matrix.” For all his negativity, Omar, his trick turned boyfriend is his match, competing for everything there is to hate and resist, especially references to his racial identity and justifiably allusions to “Arabs as terrorists”. It’s Omar who sums it all up for these depraved characters with “It’s a disgusting species, humanity. We really do deserve to be wiped out.”
From the onset Omar is revealed as a shrewd man, shrouding himself in a web of lies about who he is and where he’s from — Farouk from Saudi Arabia, Demetrius from Greece, Joseph from Armenia — all depending on those he’s with, the sex act they require or what Omar feels he can extort from them. But when an older man hires him from his ad for “The Arabian Stud”, Omar reveals himself. That’s if you believe him. And therein lies the play’s flaw. The character’s transformation from a male prostitute to an empathic character is no more believable than any of his other fronts. In that regard the play delivers the unfortunate message that this Arab character is not trustworthy; one can’t believe a word he says.
Peter Macdissi portrays Omar in his series of poses from envying the rich and terrorizing the weak to falling to his knees in childish fear, all perfectly adept strategies, but none of which build a character. The standout performance in this production is Austin Lysy as Dwight who has a dangerous bad boy quality and a beautifully innocent face.
By Isa Goldberg
All That I Will Ever Be
New York Theater Workshop
79 East 4th Street
1 212 239-6200