Flashes of truth
|Redtwist Theatre presents|
Review by Kat Hey
After watching Men Exposed, I must confess that I feel a bit exposed. It seems as if playwright Scott Woldman is trying to forge a hybrid of the popular “Hangover” movies and “Porky’s” – with splashes of Albee cynicism and bitterness.
The ensemble cast does an able job of raunchy humor, but then loses a beat when it turns to the ‘exposure’ of the characters’ real feelings. The individual stories of love found and/or emotions hardened feels like ‘a very special episode’ of a sitcom. This show never maintains enough of the edge needed to qualify as dark humor or social commentary.
The character of Mike (John Mark Jernigan) is in Las Vegas for one last romp of wild and drunken shenanigans with his best man Jim (Beau Forbes) and the rest of his posse of married and single friends. Jernigan has a fresh, scrubbed quality that actually takes away from the edge that is needed in this show. Forbes does a great job as the cynical eternal bachelor who carries damage from his childhood that colors his opinion of women and relationships. His performance projects the wounded child that never healed, carrying with him embedded misogyny.
Every posse of dudes in Vegas has to have the raunchy disgusting guy. Pete (Andrew Marikis) is the quintessential loud mouth who has some of the best lines in the play. Marikis puts an unctuous spin on what happens when he gets a lap dance and what sensitive Hugh (Zach Finch) should do with the stripper in the next room.
Stuart the pothead (Matthew Webb) accurately deems Pete ‘the Jack Kerouac of sleaze’. The bit about Pete sleeping with Bobby’s (Christopher Hahn) elderly Aunt Bessie feels lifted from the “American Pie” movie, but – though I didn’t want to laugh – I did because Hahn does a spot on reaction of incredulousness.
Bobby and Danny (Ken Miller) have a storytelling duet about the valor of friendship and marriage. These characters are meant to be the moral backbone of the story, but their scene goes on way too long. What is supposed to be an encouraging tale of reasons to get married falls flat.
Webb tells the best story of the time he spent with an older woman. The group says sugar mama and Stuart says ‘corporate sponsor. When Webb puts the bong down to relate the story of his babysitting his sponsor’s teenage son, it is comic gold! Webb portrays all of the characters in the story with a perfect pitch stoner recall.
Finch’s portrayal of sensitive and virginal Hugh is slightly off kilter, but could be remedied by trimming the dialogue. Finch does wear the argyle sweater and sansabelts quite well and embodies the character. Another highlight is his moment of dropping trou to prove a point to the dudes assembled. It is a great tragicomic moment.
The play has the requisite cool dude – Brian (Dan Wenzel Jr.), in a throwaway role. Wenzel is good but the role adds clumsiness to the play and a formulaic climax to a night of drunken soul baring.
My main issue with Men Exposed is the overloaded dialogue and the pacing. It could be trimmed by 20 minutes, and if it’s going to cover misogyny, it could go full Neanderthal instead of softening the edges. Additionally, the staging is not well suited to the production, as characters reactions are frequently missed.
This is a decent way to spend a Friday night but it could be more fun. It should either be slapstick ridiculous or full on Cassavetes testosterone-fueled black humor. The cast is certainly capable of either.
Men Exposed continues through January 25th at Redtwist Theatre, 1044 Bryn W. Mawr (map), with performances Fridays/Saturdays at 10:30pm. Tickets are $15, and are available by phone (773-728-7529) or online through BuzzOnStage.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at Redtwist.org. (Running time: 90 minutes without intermission. NOTE: This production contains strong language and sexually suggestive situations, so I recommend attendance for adults 18+).
Photos by Jan Ellen Graves
behind the scenes
Matt Dominguez (director), Allison Queen (stage manager), Olivia Leah Baker (costume designer), Eric Vigo (lighting designer), Kate Wecker (sound designer), Jan Ellen Graves (graphic designer, photos, co-producer), Charles Bonilla (box office manager), E. Malcolm Martinez (box office associate), Johnny Garcia (box office associate, associate producer), Michael Colucci (co-producer)