Three flamboyant gay men vacation in a Palm Springs Airbnb.
By: Patrick Christiano
April 17, 2022: If JC Lee’s new comedy, To My Girls, reminds you of Mart Crowley’s 1968 ground-breaking play, The Boys in the Band, about a group of self-loathing, catty, gay men, I would not be surprised. To My Girls, which recently opened in a Second Stage production, like Crowley’s play puts a group of thirty something gay men together, however this time the setting is a garish Palm Springs Airbnb, where they have come to let loose for the weekend.
The shallow, self- centered main characters are three longtime thirty-something friends, Castor (Maulik Pancholy), Leo (Britton Smith), and Curtis, (Jay Armstrong Johnson). A fourth, Jeff (Carman Lacivita), arrives late near the end of the play. Thrown into the mix are the condo owner Bernie (Bryan Batt), an older gay Trump supporter, and Omar (Noah J. Ricketts) a young-muscled hottie, sporting rippling abs, who Castor picks up from the bar.
Curtis, who arranged the get-a-way, just wants everyone to have a good-time. He is the top dog narcissist of the group and takes advantage of Castro, his best friend, a writer, who works at Starbucks and has a crush on him. Leo, a black queen with abundant knowledge of queer theory, rounds out the trio of bickering friends.
Nothing much happens, the characters are basically the same as at the beginning. Yes, one of them sleeps with another and a third character becomes upset, but little transpires over the evening except a barrage of witty banter and comments. All very smart and with hip contemporary references, yet the characters sound alike with the same clever sense of humor, and their arguments feel stale.
The direction by Stephen Brackett is heavy-handed and played strictly for laughs, like he does not trust the material. The actors comply by keeping the pedal to the medal, which although funny never allows for a moment of a real emotion to come to the surface. Everything is imposed and the results become tedious quickly with no cumulative weight.
One of the funniest parts of the evening comes near the end of the play. The men do a synchronized dance to the Pussycat Dolls song “When I Grow Up,” wearing high-heels, wigs, and flowing caftans. They lip-sync, I wanna be famous/I wanna be a star,” for their Instagram followers, the most important people in their lives. Oddly for a play that portends to inspire gay men to “protect the fire that keeps you flaming,” the answer feels shallow.
To My Girls is now playing at the Tony Kiser Theater, 305 West 43rd Street, through April 24, 2022.
For tickets call: 866-811-4111
Photography: Joan Marcus