Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Night in Vegas - A Review

Posted by David

A Night in Vegas, the latest light and frothy comedy from Alternate Theatre Company, is actually five nights (or their aftermath) portrayed in five, mostly unconnected, vignettes in a not-quite fabulous hotel room in that place where things that happen stay.  The Alternate Theatre Company, founded by Joe Marshall, was last represented in New York by The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever.

A Night in Vegas covers a fair amount of ground in its five scenes.  The various sequences run the gamut from door-slamming farce to more serious topics but all have a gay couple as their central protagonists, or at least as central to the action that takes place.  A few of the actors play multiple roles but most only appear in one scene.

Marshall, who is also the playwright and director, has a good ear for quick back-and-forth dialogue and the snappy comeback.  The jokes come fast and thick and all the performers handle the fast-paced humor adeptly.  The action, for the most part, remains at a high pitch from the moment the lights come up until the scene-ending blackout.  Marshall paces things well, with the actors taking their time in the more lyrical passages.  The performances are unified, creating an enjoyable sense of heightened reality.

While all the actors work well together, there are a few standout performances.  Drew Stark, playing a man whose life has recently been upended, gives his character a nicely understated and poignant touch.  Likewise Bill Purdy, taking on fatherly roles in two very different scenes, brings a naturalness and honesty to the proceedings.  On the flip side, Chris von Hoffman has a delightfully comic turn as a deaf boyfriend, and Nicholas Pierro and Kelly Riley have a charming chemistry with each other as boyfriends in both of the scenes in which they are featured.  Scott Lilly is also to be commended for covering a lot of emotional ground as a young man waking from a lost weekend.  The cast is admirably rounded out with Jonathan Craig, Joe Fanelli, Ali Greib, Denis Hawkins, Jason Romas and Edy Escamilla.

The simple set and lighting design (Casper De la Torre) and costumes (Seth M. Gamble) compliment the action on stage effectively.

While on the whole the production is enjoyable, I do have a few minor quibbles.  The play contains nudity, natural in some instances, less so in others.  I can't say I'm complaining, as all the performers have their charms, but I can't say that the action always warranted it.  I had spoken earlier with Mr. Marshall about this aspect of the production, and while I understand his contention that if one would be naked in the real world, the stage representation should be the same, the fact remains that theater is not the real world, and sometimes nudity distracts rather than enhances.

I also felt that several dramatic opportunities in the various plots were squandered.  Certainly there is only so much ground one can over in a 20-30 minute scene, but while a lot of interesting subjects come up, none of them are ever explored in any innovative fashion.  Aside from some slapstick surprises, all the stories conclude rather predictably and characters follow well-worn tropes both theatrical and gay.  Not every play has to break new ground, but the potential exists in the work to go a bit further in one or two directions.

Still, timing is everything and as we celebrate Pride Month here in New York City, A Night in Vegas is an expertly concocted confection well-suited to be enjoyed by those looking to include a theatrical element in their festivities.  You may not see anything you haven't seen before, but you will certainly enjoy yourself.

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