Theater review: ‘Bail Me Out’ at Hudson Guild Theatre
Racism, homophobia, class warfare, religious intolerance — “Bail Me Out” at the Hudson Guild Theatre is brimming with substantive issues but explores them in familiar and predictable ways.
Author Renato Biribin Jr. stars as his drama’s central character, a tire shop owner named Joe (you can safely append the surname “Sixpack”), whose blue-collar values and complacency are tested when his recently arrested best friend, Ray (Scott Alan Hislop), draws him into his shadowy life “on the down low” (where males have sex with other men but still consider themselves heterosexual).
Straight-talking (and thinking) Joe has a hard time wrapping his head around the contradictory revelation; his neglected and frustrated wife (Carisa Engle) has a more open mind, although it hasn’t much helped their strained relationship. Still, Joe does his best to set his prejudice aside when Ray asks him to act as go-between with his new lover, a charismatic married Presbyterian minister (Terrance Jones).
Unfortunately, the ensuing complications serve plot twists at the expense of credibility, particularly in Ray’s failure to warn Joe about the preacher’s wife (Amy Motta) with ties to Joe’s past — no friend would withhold that kind of information. Over-reliance on profanity comes across as wannabe David Mamet, a cheap way to gloss over a lack of anything insightful to say.
Biribin handily evokes Joe’s denim-clad, working class persona but doesn’t risk compromising his likability: His Joe is so solid and reasonable, he doesn’t undergo much internal conflict. The opposition comes mostly from even more stereotyped characters. It takes director Joshua Fardon’s dynamically paced overlapping scenes and compelling performances by Hislop and Jones to keep us from echoing the sentiments of the title.
– Philip Brandes
“Bail Me Out,” Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 10. $25. (323) 960-7745 or www.plays411.com/bailmeout. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
Photo: Scott Alan Hislop and Renato Biribin Jr. Credit: Roger Kuhns.