The New Century
The New Century
By Paul Rudnick
Directed by David Lee
Starring Elizabeth T Murff, Frank McClain, Anitra Pritchard
Footlights Theatre, Orlando, FL
There’s a laugh a minute in this gay-enabled comedy by Paul Rudnick. We open with Helene Nadler (Murff) and her self one-upmanship about an increasingly gay set of children. She’s way beyond the simple misaligned sexual connections, there’s a transsexual lesbian son (“Isn’t that taking the long way around?”) and every Jewish Mother’s dream – a doctor who’s also a sex slave – “You WILL kiss your Aunt Sophie.” A poop fetish lurks in her life as well, but she assures us she’s a saint and the gol-durndest most accepting mother in Long Island history, Jewish or Goy. Act Two reintroduces us to Mr. Charles (McClain), the Gayest Man on Earth. His glance is enough to make a straight man gay, but his industrial strength hair piece distracts your gaze just enough to block the necessary eye contact. McClain appeared in the same roll in the Fringe a few years ago, and while this is the same script, it’s every bit as funny as the original and worth seeing again. His ward Shane (Brock Yurich) isn’t bright, but you can dress him up like Robin, and that’s good for a Cable access show at 4 a.m. The third act revolves around a Midwestern mom and scrap booker, Ellen Diggs (Anitra Pritchard). She nails the classic Nice Aunt Look and the sight of a knitted pink poodle toilet paper cozy brings back creepy memories of Wisconsin in the ’70s. Crafting is only a crutch, the glitter and pinking shears hides her shame at her son’s lifestyle. Her life shattered when he died of AIDS, and the climax gives an unusually emotional moment for the Footlight stage.
There lies the problem in this otherwise comic – after the trip from suburban leather boys and the Palm Beach gay gulag to Pritchard’s stellar and touching performance, the show drifts back to its campy comedy which now feels forced. The loose ends could have been left lying on stage, or the climax put nearer the end. It’s tough to blend the camp and the crying, although the humor is a perfect anecdote to last year’s parade of dark dramas. In the hands of director David Lee, we find that a silly sex comedy can still make you cry.