Theater review: '... Men' at Celebration Theatre
Pungent insight infiltrates "... Men" in its American premiere at Celebration Theatre. Author Joe DiPietro wrestles Arthur Schnitzler's 1900 classic "La Ronde" into modern gay male territory, and achieves a wider reach than you'd expect.
"... Men" (its first word is unprintable here) echoes Schnitzler in its 10 duologues, with each new player continuing to the next encounter. Accordingly, director Calvin Remsberg begins with his cast converging on designer Tom Buderwitz's trapezoid units
Amid much turntable noise, they spin the set open, leaving Brian Dare's pragmatic call boy and Johnny Kostrey's latent GI to launch the proceedings with humor and intensity.
No one will mistake DiPietro for Shaw, but he sustains an accelerating complexity, with striking interstitial use of key dialogue. Apart from some clunky transitions, Remsberg expertly stages this intimate play, aided by designers Jeremy Pivnick (lighting), Lindsay Jones (sound) and Daavid Hawkins (costumes).
Despite variants of technique, the ensemble is fearless, casual with the nudity, invested in the stakes. The sauna dalliance between Kostrey and Mike Ciriaco's graduate student leads to a vivid Michael Rachlis, whose riotous college stoner contrasts with Sean Galuszka's understated Internet pick-up. Galuszka and the never-better David Pevsner as longtime partners -- perhaps DiPietro's most pertinent sequence -- are easily worth admission.
Jeff Olson sensitively trumps stereotypes as the porn star, while A.J. Tannen does yeoman work to make his insecure playwright less contrived than he's written. If Chad Borden's closeted A-lister feels impersonated rather than inhabited, his showdown with Gregory Franklin's affecting talking head may still resonate with more Industry pros than will cop to it.
Ultimately, so should this elegant, engrossing roundelay.
--David C. Nichols
"... Men," Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 25. $25. (323) 957-1884. Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Photo: Michael Rachlis and Mike Ciriaco in "... Men" at the Celebration Theatre. Credit: Michael Lamont