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Theater review: '... Men' at Celebration Theatre

September 17, 2009 |  3:20 pm

F*cking Men 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