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New York City - Theatre

Elliot Ramon Potts’
Loaded: A New Play
Schedule Varies Through Holidays
Previews begin Nov. 7
Opens November 15, 2009
Closes January 23, 2010
The Lion Theatre

Reviewed by Justin D. Quackenbush

At the start of Elliot Ramon Potts’ new play Loaded, it’s blaringly clear to the audience that we are in for a ride. The lights come up on the post-coital Jude (the boyish Scott Kearns) and middle-aged Patrick (a hunky Kevin Spirtas) making out in a tangle of sheets and naked limbs. Jude, expresses the pleasurable taste of Patrick’s tongue, to which Patrick unabashedly replies, “That’s your ass, you’re tasting.” There’s pillow talk and nudity and vulgarity and that’s only thirty seconds in.

Appropriately, the queen-sized bed on and around which this occurs, is the focal point of Patrick’s New York City studio apartment, stunningly replicated by scenic designer Adam Koch. From the initial tone, one might conclude that the bed is the stage of an impending sex-romp, but is actually the center ring of the polemic circus that entails.

The couple -all the while engaging in sexual horseplay- banters about seemingly benign topics (is purple Gatorade grape flavored or purple flavored?) when Jude casually tosses the first playful punch; A misguided generalization that the young gay men of today do not carry the same “gender baggage” as Patrick’s generation. And thus begins the 90-minute steel-coaster of Mr. Pott’s dialogue.

Soon, we are the voyeurs of a nice little power struggle in which Jude and Patrick tango in and out of the roles of toreador and beast, rhythmically and coyly riding a boomerang of seduction and intellectual prowess. Rarely does this result in shouting or aggression. Rather, it’s pacing is decidedly sensual. We are never allowed to forget that they are both desperately trying to spend their first full night together following two months of casual sex-dates.

They each take turns peppering their polar views with unusually earnest and sometimes squirmingly crass stories from their pasts. One discusses the intricacies and complications of preparing oneself for anal intercourse. Another, recounts a fifth grade show and tell involving a safe-sex demonstration. It’s at once tender and nerve-wracking watching them try to help each other out of the quicksand they’ve found themselves in. That is, until Jude throws the audience a breathtaking bitch-slap, as Patrick infers his questionable HIV status.

Loaded is not the only play on the boards this season featuring a cast of two in a rumble over sexual power and intellectual agility. Blocks away at the John Golden Theatre, a trio of known names are attempting to offer something equally as riveting as Loaded. The operative word being ‘attempting.’ Julia Stiles and Bill Pullman are mostly incompetent at delivering the overtly choppy and pretentious verbal acrobatics of David Mamet’s Oleanna.

The real treat, is that unlike the debacle playing over at the Golden, Loaded tackles even more and Mr. Kearns and Mr. Spirtas not only play off of each other successfully, but deftly navigate the fiercely tempestuous topics Mr. Pott’s is serving up: sexism, erectile dysfunction, religious indiscretion, civil inequality, ageism, infidelity, drug abuse, sexual conformity, classism and yes, the proprieties of STD disclosure all rear their ugly heads.

The structure expertly mirrors the sort of pitfalls we encounter during such arguments. Issues are raised, points and accusations are made and all are hurriedly abandoned in an avalanche of desperation to win. This risky format is navigated gingerly under the direction of Michael Unger.

There seems to be a bit of a restoration that the gay play is undergoing. The few of us that were lucky enough to catch Geoffrey Nauffts off-Broadway summer ‘09 hit Next Fall, (slated to play the Helen Hayes on Broadway in Spring 2010) were amazed at the mature and heart wrenching story of a gay couple agonizing over different religious views. The Rattlestick opened it’s season with Daniel Talbott’s Slipping, a gay teen coming of age play, that while less-original in tone was nonetheless refreshing in it’s grit –think: angsty Edge of Seventeen on stage for the new millennium.-

While other gay plays of late are less ambitious in the volume of content they address, Loaded still succeeds in that Jude and Patrick are not fully developed characters aside from their respective politics, yet the main character here is, in fact, their relationship. The result is a play that, although difficult to digest, offers an honest portrayal of the human need to connect with another, despite the stakes staked against them. Yes, sometimes, it seems, in our pursuit of mutuality our dynamics are in fact loaded.

Tickets: $49, Ticket Central: 212-279-4200,

The Lion Theatre: Theatre Row| 410 West 42nd Street|New York New York

Manson: The Musical
Closes December 24, 2009
The Kraine Theater

Reviewed by Elizabeth Murphy

Rather than add to the Manson myth, as some might feel we are doing, we’d like to debunk it, and examine the absurdity of the case in a way that will make the reality of it more clear and comprehensible than a dozen sober and dutifully serious documentaries ever could.”-Russell Dobular, Director.

As with many productions and works of literature created off satire, Manson the Musical, relies heavily on prior knowledge of the Manson history in order to grasp the comedic circumstances the play tries to construct. Everything from Manson’s far-fetched interpretations of The Beatles’ songs (more specifically “Helter Skelter”), to his followers praising him like a God, is exaggerated to the point where you can’t help but let a snicker slip from your lips, or a grin emerge on your face despite the origin of its original horrific accounts.

However, even with some understanding, or a gist of knowledge of the Manson background and the events that occurred in 1969, one can still find it a bit difficult to acknowledge anything comical about the play. When analyzing the situation aside from its comedic sense, the power one man had over a group of supporters is chilling. But, the crimes those supports committed were terrifying and hard to believe.

While sitting in the theater, though, what seemed to make all this more digestible was time. Due to the fact that it happened about three decades ago, it’s almost as if there’s invisible time lapse rule that states, “It’s okay to poke fun of a serious situations after a certain amount of time has passed.” But, as the director noted, almost as a disclaimer, “…We’d like to debunk it, and examine the absurdity of the case in a way that will make the reality of it more clear…” and within this explanation, Dobular gives us the basic definition of satire- the exaggeration of a situation or action in order to shed light on what the problem are.

In this sense, the play does more than complete its task. For example, in the scene where Sharon Tate’s character (played by Kerstin Porter) gets murdered, she is singing a song that suggests that everything in her life is perfect. The last line of the song is, “If I were to die today, I would die the happiest woman on earth.” The song ends abruptly with a knock on the door, and the murders take place.

In this scene, the situation is exaggerated just enough in that song to cause laughter because the audience is in on the obvious joke; she does in fact die that day, but it doesn’t leave her feeling like the happiest woman in the world. When the murders were acted out, they happened quickly. This was a smart move, for these were the most sensitive areas of the Manson story, because the events were the most gruesome when they occurred in real life.

The key was to “examine the absurdity” which was achieved without having to dissect the “touchy” areas of the real life situation.

Manson the Musical evokes the mind, or perhaps, strikes some nerves with its witty dialogue and provocative song lyrics. These attributes make it a good musical, because it is able to arouse mind.

Director Tom Booker
Original Music & Musical Direction by Laura Wasserman Hall
Lyrics by Tom, Laura & Cast

Cast: Mary Booker (Sharon Tate, Mrs. LaBianca), Tom Booker (Narrator), Beth Cahill (Go-Go Dancer), Michele Cole ( Lulu), Gerry Daly (Jay Sebring, Ringo Starr & Others), Jon Favreau (Voytek Frykowski), Kate Flannery (Katie), Melanie Hutsell (Gypsy, Abigail Folger), Jodi Lennon (Linda Kasabian), EJ Peters (Sadie Mae Gl utz), Scot Robinson (Tex Watson), Gary Rudoren (Judge, Paul McCartney & Others), Mike Singer (Vincent Bugliosi, John Lennon & Others), Dave Summers (George Harrison & Others), Becky Thyre (Squeaky Fromme), Ben Zook (Charles Manson).

Tickets: $18.00; $15.00 Student

The Kraine Theater | 85 East 4th Street





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