Duncan Pflaster is proving quite the prolific comedic playwright in recent years, with upwards of thirteen works written and produced, several of them award winners, not to mention numerous skits and sketches for various venues. Even then, he freely admits that one of his most recent works, The Taint of Equality or, I Want Your Sex, was likely the fastest in writing itself – if such can ever be said of this recalcitrant form. There is some sense of this fluid ease carried forward in the production playing at Planet Connections Theatre Festivity this year, and it may be down to the fact that Pflaster himself is directing. As author he knows distinctly the feeling he is trying to conjure and adroitly directs his cast accordingly. The result is a romping, light-hearted piece in a farcical vein, with some sturdy, crowd-pleasing muscle.
The story concerns happily partnered duo, Adrian and Javier, about to celebrate seven years of connubial bliss. Or rather, it would be connubial if legality had afforded the possibility. And now though, in New York state, it has and, well, Adrian and Javier are sensitive to the notion that perhaps their togetherness could be solemnized, completed in some manner. But as good queer theorists (Adrian is a renowned author on topics Queer) they balk at the conventional tone that marriage invokes; it goes against their queer credentials. Despite this, peer and media pressure is prompting a declaration of some kind from the pair and, well that just makes them mad, people! In fact, to reassert their standards as open-relationship, non-exclusive, unmarried queer men, they decide to engage in public sexual dalliances with other men. Damn straight! Or, for these two, maybe not. The easy pickings afforded in the contemporary gay milieu are denied them on account of a series of comically bungled sexcapades. A heavy pinch of farcical salt sees each of the duo initiate gambits and watch them unravel as situations credibly mundane (drug usage, decency policing) and broadly ludicrous (impersonation, histrionics, and pique) erupt at every turn. The mayhem is added to by well-meaning friends, and all comes to a glorious head in a pricelessly staged set piece which is the unexpected gem at the center of this production. This scene is enacted at a sex club on a blackout party night, when the men move through a darkened environment with just mini flashlights to guide them. Visually this is a stunner, comedically enriched by campy choreography (David Baxter) and some nice co-ordination by the entire cast, who happen to be – entirely naked. It’s a show-stopper.
There are some serious themes at the center of this tale, but Pflaster never gets bogged down in any of them. Entertainment is his bag, and deep thoughts about the possibility, or desirability of open relationships are paid only air-kissy acknowledgement. In Taint he holds fast to a light entertainment coda that’s purposely too soft-hearted to rank as satire. No incisor marks are left, and he’s altogether too knowing to endorse any single philosophical perspective. He does at the end, however, leave us with a twisting teaser, when Adrian – having newly plighted his troth to Javier – picks up the phone to use this information as a sexual lure for one of his earlier non-conquests. Is there the ghost of some shadow here, or is it just a case of what goes around, comes around?
In actors Alan McNaney (Adrian) and Mark-Eugene Garcia (Javier) he has two attractive leads who hint that they would be equal to a more sober examination of these dramatic themes. They are not, however, out of sync with the broader comic, caricatured presences surrounding them, and the cast gels nicely into a funny bone-seeking ensemble. Sparkling cameos are enjoyed by Joe Fanelli, Colin Godwin, and David T. Zimmerman, while some of the heavier lifting is done by Marvin Riggins, Jr., and Juan Carlos Diaz. Vin Macri is very effective at working sound and lighting effects.
As auteur/director Pflaster does show some signs of self-indulgence; a rather extended riff on Sondheim connected puns proves groaningly belabored. It seems a little gilt on the lily is too tempting to pass up; do we really require the play’s subtitle? But it’s all in good humor, plausibly with an air of self-mockery. It’s about fun, people, remember fun? There’s fun aplenty here. Last I checked, ‘taint no crime.
~~~The Taint of Equality ~or~ I Want Your Sex Benefiting: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center Produced by Cross-Eyed Bear Productions Written/Directed by Duncan Pflaster
The production stars a large cast of 13 men: Roberto Alexander, Juan Carlos Diaz*, Joe Fanelli (Winner, Best Featured Actor Spotlight On Award for Pflaster’s “Eternity: Time Without End”), Mark-Eugene Garcia, Colin Godwin, Derrick Bryant Marshall, Shawn McLaughlin, Alan McNaney*, Rehmat Qadir, Jon Rentler, Marvin Riggins, Jr.*, Adam Samtur, and David T. Zimmerman . $18 General Admission $9.00 for Film/Music Participants FREE for Theatre Festivity Participants . Friday 6/8/12 – 6:30pm = Performance #1 Wednesday 6/13/12 – 10:00pm = Performance #2 Saturday 6/16/12 – 10:00pm = Performance #3 Monday 6/18/12 – 7:30pm = Performance #4 Thursday 6/21/12 – 10:00pm = Performance #5 Saturday 6/23/12 – 9:00pm = Performance #6
.At Bleecker Street Theatre (Downstairs) 45 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012 Conveniently located near: Bleecker St (4 & 6) Broadway – Lafayette St (B, D, F, M) Prince St (N, R) Click Here to purchase tickets