Monday, October 22, 2007

Everyone's Favourite Bathhouse!

I did myself a favor and went to see the new revival of Terrance McNally's The Ritz on Friday. I had no prior experience with this play, but I think that was a good thing, because I didn't have anything to compare it to. Now that I've said that, I found the play amusing and entertaining.

I am not really a play person, I have always been more attracted to musicals, but I can always go for a nice sexual farce every now and again. I can see how with the original 1975 production it was kind of ground breaking, showing a side of gay culture that not that many people got to see. Now the bathhouse thing is a bit disturbing now with the prevalence of AIDS and various other sexually transmitted diseases. But it is kind of jovial to look back at a time when people really didn't think about that kind of thing.

The plot is a little dated yes, but there were some updates to McNally's script like the fact that they took out most of the sexually transmitted disease references, which was a good move by director Joe Mantello(Wicked).

The basic plot outline is Man's in-laws hate him, dying father's last words are "Get Proclo" Man's brother in law is going to kill him, Man hides out in gay bathhouse. Man has intolerance for gay people, crazy over the top gay says something, man loves gays now, crazy bathhouse singer wants to be famous, crazy singers back up dancers trick her into thinking man is producer. Singer tries to jump man's bones, man freaks out, brother in law finds him, man dresses in drag, Man's brother in law is about to kill him, Man is like "I'll kill you" Man and Brother and law make up, the end. That is about it, simple plot a lot of running around on the set, the end.

Rosie Perez was great as crazy bathhouse singer Googie Gomez. A lot of times she spoke too fast and it was hard to understand her, but for the most part she was amazing. The best part of the show was Googie's night club act where she proceeded to sing a medley of some of the most random songs ever. Though in the second act her character kind of stalled, which I don't fault Ms. Perez for, that I blame on the direction and script writing.

Kevin Chamberlin is capable as Guy Proclo, though I would have liked to have seen a more believable character from Chamberlin, because I know he can do better. His character was pretty constant throughout the piece, all except for the weird self-realization that gays are normal moment in act one(which was kind of random and came out of nowhere and was in my humble opinion a bit preachy, they should have saved the realization moment for the end where it would have made more sense).

The most credit has to go to Brooks Ashmanskas who played Chris the over the hill gay man with a ferocious sexual appetite. By far the best written character, and the one who had the best part in the show. It is strange to think of F. Murray Abraham originating this role. Ashmanskas was brilliant and I would go see the show again to see his what I am hoping is at least a Tony nominated turn if not Tony winning.

The show is a massive undertaking which probably worked well when it opened in the 70's but seems a bit dated here. But in typical Roundabout fashion they know how to bring in big names and sustain your attention for the two hour performance. The only major complaint that I have was that the seats were too close together and that there was not enough leg room. I am a tall guy and am used to suffering for my hobby, but this was insane.

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