A Night in Vegas @ Bleecker Street Theatre, New York

cast list
Daniel Bak, Jonathan Craig, Edy Escamilla, Joe Fanelli, Ali Grieb, Denis Hawkins, Scott Lilly, Nicholas Pierro, Gerald Prosser Jr., Bill Purdy, Kelly Riley, Jason Romas, Drew Stark, Chris von Hoffmann

directed by
Joe Marshall
If Love American Style was still on TV, then on a good night – you would see a show very much like A Night in Vegas.

Joe Marshall’s comic play is funny, occasionally touching but also occasionally wildly off the mark. But, taken on its own terms, most of the time it is a lot of fun and with a 10:30 week-end start time, it is clearly pitching itself as an entertaining night out.

The play consists of a series of vignettes about gay male life all set in a tacky Vegas hotel room. The over-arching theme is one of acceptance, but this is – usually – handled delicately, bar a couple of moments when it’s as subtle a sledgehammer.
The first episode is a well-paced but basic farce. Nicholas Pierro and Kelly Riley play long time, now bored lovers hoping for a romantic holiday but unexpectedly confronted with an annoyed rent boy, an opportunistic bell hop, a fainting john and a ticked off security guard in a cheap hotel room. Their dreams of a quiet getaway are dashed as the situation swings wildly out of control. Pierro and Riley, who also appear in the final scene, give the two standout performances of the night.

The tone shifts for the next episode, in which Jason Romas, abandoned by his friends at a dance club, gets a ride home with Drew Stark. Both actors do a fine job with material that might have easily ventured into melodrama.

The play wobbles in its third section, an uncomfortable piece that seems to have been included only to show the audience that physically disabled people can be assholes too. A funny, poignant set up in the fourth section is seriously hampered by age inappropriate casting. Ali Grieb plays a mother who is clearly supposed to be a good twenty five years older than the actress is. Grieb, gamely trying to capture the character without resorting to caricature, is hampered by a bad wig and a sense of restraint – she may have been better of aping Shelly Winters in her over-the-top years. Bill Purdy is more convincing playing the father, especially since he’s closer to the character in age, but though effective he’s given little to do.

Purdy is however, rewarded in the fifth and final scene with a much meater role as semi-sugar daddy to a young man waking from a week-end bender to a room full of strangers and a bad hangover. Scott Lilly plays the young man in question, with nice comic timing. This scene, as with the first, works in large part because the actors fully embrace the campness and excess of the piece.

Marshall, who wrote this in the late 1990s, here also directs what is a fun, undemanding evening which, like that silly old sitcom, works best when the actors are able to let themselves go a little crazy.

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