Brian Hutchinson, left, and Max Jenkins
Written by Paul Rudnick and unimaginatively directed by Walter Bobbie, it’s set in a glitzy hotel suite before and after an Oscars ceremony. Mike (Brian Hutchison), a gay Jewish actor, is an unassuming guy who still can’t believe he’s been nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category (and on the same ballot as Matt Damon, no less). Mike’s hanging out with his agent, Cary (Max Jenkins), discussing his past career and future plans, when in walks his nephew Eddie (Tom Phelan), a transgender person and a college student in gender studies. Eddie wants Mike to use the podium to take a stand on the casting of a cisgender performer (also up for an award) in a transgender role. Cary strenuously objects, concerned that such overt political statements at a good-time event such as the Oscars will undercut Mike’s career.
Before this conflict can play out, however, Mike’s glamorous and controlling mom, Esther (Wendie Malick), appears and immediately secures center stage with her own announcement (following a lengthy exposition) that she’s fallen in love with Eleanor (Kecia Lewis), a Pulitzer Prize-winning African-American novelist. Hardly have greetings and congratulations been bandied about when news comes of a mass shooting at an LGBT center hosting homeless children. Thirty people, among them youngsters, die; one of those to survive is Mike’s buff boyfriend, Austin (Luke Macfarlane), who, traumatized, soon shows up at the suite to reveal all the terrible details.
All of this is jam-packed into 90 minutes of a facile script studded with one-liners, some more on target than others.
From the beginning the kindest thing that can be said about the ensemble is that it is under-rehearsed (maybe) and under-directed (for sure). Bobbie positions the actors onstage and they mostly stand there, looking awkward and shooting exposition back and forth. It’s as if they’re being directed for a sitcom, with expectations that strategic cameras will pick up some close shots to be edited in later.
The charismatic Malick comes off best in the first half, but her performance falls apart once the role calls for her to approximate a real human being. The bland Hutchinson is miscast, and it’s impossible to believe that he and Malick share DNA.
BIG NIGHT | Kirk Douglas Theatre, 9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City | Through Oct. 8 | (213) 628-2772 | centertheatregroup.org
Source: LA Weekly