Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Dirt"

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entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


by Abe Rybeck
Directed by Roland Tec

Set Coordinator David R. Gammons
Lighting Design Jennifer Simon
Costume Design by Holly Ratafia
Sound Engineer Lisa Kaplan
Stage Manager Robbie Gray

Michael Popper............................Michael McNeal
Michael McCall.......................Michael Lopez-Saenz
Michael Govern...............................Paul Outlaw
Michael Lawson...............................Yogen Kushi
Myke.....................................Catherine Clark
Mother Theresa......Adam D. Morris (a k a Ms. Eve Adams)
Michael Weiss, Michael Andrews, Officer Banham, Lizzie Culp, Bert McCall, Mr. Lawson Sr. ..................Roland Tec

Abe Rybeck's new play "Dirt" is packed with so much sharply etched, witty detail it literally explodes, and Roland Tec its director has used every corner of the BCA Theatre trying to hold it all. There may be much more to the play than any production could fully realize, but even an uneven try by Rybeck's own Theatre Offensive spatters witty dishy dirt and gritty social insights in all directions faster than speeding bullets.

The show's most polished performance comes from Michael McNeal is an articulate, street-smart ex-crackhead hooker taken in, straigtened out and bedded by the head of The Mayor's Committee on Outreach to The Gay Community, played by Michael Lopez-Saenz. Their two bouts of simulated uninhibited anal sex --- hysterically funny in the first act, close-to-the-knuckle brutal in the second --- avoid the voyeuristic by being realistic and meaningful at the same time. And McNeal is so unselfishly self assured as an actor as to make his opening scene naked, admiring himself while singing in the shower eloquently beautiful. (Anyone who remembers his transvestite "songstress" in "Bent" at Harvard knows what he can do.)

Lopez-Saenz' character is caught up in politics, where the art of the possible means sacrificing his instinctive desire to help every single person to the macro-economic needs of a greater good for all. Paul Outlaw plays a suited Black advocate of gay rights deep in the game of dirty deals for public funding of AIDS- Walks and fending off help from the Log-Cabin Coalition. He also thinks he's a more suitable lover for the play's hero than an ex- crackhead, however grateful.

Into this political-intellectual-sexual triangle comes a call from a fifteen-year-old runaway turning tricks for money who was solicited, raped and beaten by a brutal ac/dc cop making a name for himself gay-bashing. This kid was turned on to good sex and classic MGM movies --- to the point that he could tell his own father his homoerotic techniques were inadequate. He studs his innocently eager comments with lines and scenarios from films three or four times older than he is

Camping around the outskirts of the action is Mother Theresa, the drag-queen pimp and pusher the live-in-lover fought free of. Female impersonator Adam D. Morris (a k a Ms. Eve Adams) makes her big and broad, both in her eagerness to dish the dirt and her iron-hearted insistence on the bottom-line

The only genuine female in the cast is Catherine Clark as an uppity lesbian from The Witch's Broomsticks Agency, come to do the cleaning the live-in lover has ignored. But she turns out to be a day-lighting rock-singer bent on outing the hypocrits and fighting establishment injustice with cruel truths --- such as the brutalities of a famous gay-bashing closet-case cop, for instance.

The fascinating thing about this panoramic play is that buried in all the corruscating glitter of the dialog are bits of plot scattered through act one that coalesce into a seamless whole in act two. Watching all the little balls fall into place is a continually surprising delight.

Set Coordinator David R. Gammons and Director Roland Tec have spread the show all over the stage, and into spots in the top row of the audience, which means that Jennifer Simon's lights flash in a dozen different directions isolating scenes. A lot of the action takes place in phone-calls, but playwright and director have dissolved the illusion of separation by bringing characters into the same space, until they communicate not merely vocally, but physically --- touching, kissing, even lying in bed beside one another for the center of the conversation.

Ultimately, there's more going on in this show than the cast can accomplish. The director himself plays six smaller parts, often effectively differentiating them, but never a total victory. And the cast is so busy establishing characters and relationships in act one there's little energy left for the ironic intricacies of act two. Another month's intense rehearsal could benefit everyone. But, despite what's still missing, what's there is a swiftly witty insight into the big picture of today's gay realities.


"Dirt" (till 15 June)
BCA Theatre, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's's LIVE Theater Guide