If only it were playing in a different space. If only it
had a different ending. If only it had a discernible point of view. Then,
most likely, would Ronnie Larsen’s promising and very funny SLEEPING WITH
STRAIGHT MEN live up to its evident potential. If only any of these
details mattered to the avid audience!
Inspired by the murder of Scott Amedure, a young man who
revealed publicly a same-sex crush on acquaintance Jonathan Schmitz on "The
Jenny Jones Show," the plot borrows from Mr. Amedure’s tragic life, but does
so to explore the talk show culture, rather than the endemic homophobia
evidenced by Schmitz’s ultimate reaction to being identified as the object
of a gay man’s affection. In SLEEPING WITH STRAIGHT MEN, we meet
Stanley, an avid fan of the talk shows, and a guy with a penchant for
seducing inebriated, "straight" men and giving them blow jobs. He has an eye
on handsome local waiter, Lee, and wastes no time telephoning the "Jill
Johnson Show" when the opportunity arises to confess his amorous thoughts on
the air. The notion of a secret admirer piques Lee’s ego and interest, and
he agrees to travel to NYC and appear on the show. So far, all is fun and
games and wondrous, gleeful expectations.
Here lies the trouble. Except for the very last moments
of the play, the tone is airy, light and fun. We know a murder is coming,
but only because we know the history. Otherwise, it is totally out of
context with the rest of SLEEPING WITH STRAIGHT MEN (despite a few
half-hearted "faggot" slurs). This play is a comedy, and then it is
something else, but the horrible end never rings tragic. We never see it. We
see the confession. We see the seduction. We see the straight boy get naked.
We see some simulated sex acts. The murder, however, is entirely off stage.
And staging is a BIG problem here, though not due to any
incompetence on Ronnie Larsen’s part. For, were he to stage this work so
that, say, ninety percent of the audience at Maverick had an unobstructed
view, the entirety of the piece would be performed in a space about as large
as an oversized bathtub. It is simply a ruthless performance area, seemingly
designed for discomfort and frustration amidst the audience.
Then, there is the good stuff of SLEEPING WITH
STRAIGHT MEN. First and foremost, kudos to Mink Stole and Hedda Lettuce!
Mink, as the talk show host, is as right on as she could be. A veteran of so
many of John Waters’ early, underground films (and yes, I have seen most if
not all), Ms. Stole long ago honed her skills, and has become a respectable
actress in the process. Then there is Hedda. I do not know what this play
would be without her timely lip-synchs. Be it "Hero" to accompany acts of
sodomy or "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" amidst arising angst, Hedda Lettuce
makes the tedious glamorous, the boring hilarious, and the bland beautiful.
A mixed bag, yes. However, the audience seemed to be
delighted by SLEEPING WITH STRAIGHT MEN. Go figure!
- Kessa De Santis -