Stage Review: F*cking Men
Relationships are hard. Even harder when they’re with a prostitute. Add a soldier to the mix who suddenly discovers that he’s gay and it seems that relationships are damn near impossible. Such is one of the many premises running rampant through Joe DiPietro’s play F*cking Men.
In the heart of West Hollywood at the Celebration theatre known for its gay, lesbian, and transgender productions, men roam wild and free on the stage. Focused around 10 gay men living in urban America (even though the play was originally for the British stage) F*cking Men brings to light issues we all face in our relationships, whether, gay, straight or completely asexual. Is monogamy natural? Is it necessary? Is promiscuity the answer?
Written for the Stages of London, Joe DiPietro brings together men from all different backgrounds: a soldier, a prostitute, a grad student, a college kid, a high school teacher, a banker, a porn star, a playwright, a movie star, and a talk show host. While many may find the graphic dialogue, sexual depictions and naked men who float in and out of the scenes hard to stomach, the way in which it is presented is so well done that it seems almost natural to see so many penises on the stage.
Broken up into 10 vignettes no more than 10 minutes long, each scene told a story of connection. Every one of us is striving for meaningful connections in our life but sometimes it’s hit or miss. Each of these mini stories was brilliantly spun together. Two characters would be in a scene, maybe a scene where a soldier hooks up with a male prostitute only to find he likes it and then that soldier would be in the next scene with another character discussing his experience of realizing he‘s gay. Then the man he was speaking with would be in the next scene with a new character, and so on.
“The show was brought to me by Calvin Remsberg who directed the piece, I read it and said ‘Yes, you can do this here!’” said Michael Shepperd emphatically, the Artistic Director and producer of the play.
What makes this play more striking is the minimal set design. With a few blocks on stage that are moved with every scene to convey a different space it shows you don’t need much to make a play fascinating. It also shows how amazing the cast is. With a sparse setting and good dialogue each of these actors steals the spotlight for their short 15 minutes on stage.
Johnny Kostrey who plays the soldier does a stellar job showing a man torn by his duty to the army and his desire for male companionship. His mere presence conveyed a conflicted person coming into his sexuality. Brian Dare, his counterpart in the first scene, falls into the role of a male prostitute with ease. His delivery is natural and spot on, making his lines heartfelt at the same time that they are comical. Mike Ciriaco, the grad student, brings life to the problems people have with honest relationships, even though some say it’s the best policy. His acting is solid and convincing. Michael Rachilis, the college student embracing his newfound bi-sexuality, makes the play light, humorous and exciting as he tries to have sex with everything that walks across his path. Sean Galuszka, the high school teacher and Michael’s bouncing board in his second scene, is wonderful conveying a man confused by his long time relationship’s new development. Understanding what it’s like to have an open relationship, Sean brings innocence and wisdom together in an artful way.
Sean’s long time partner, played by David Pevsner, the banker, has a true charm that shines on stage. Like so many people, he battles with monogamy in a gripping way. In David’s second scene he has a liaison with Jeff Olson, the porn star, who has a stellar body and compliments David well. AJ Tannen brings laughter and anxiety to the play as the struggling playwright. His nervousness reverberated throughout the audience realistically and humorously. AJ’s character experiences a dream come true when he meets an actor who likes his work, played by Chad Borden, who shows how difficult it can be to come out in a very public light. In Chad’s second scene Gregory Franklin plays a talk show host who Chad utilizes to tell the world his secret. Gregory’s portrayal is heartfelt, as he struggles with his lover’s death. He made the sadness truly palpable.
“I’ve really enjoyed working on the show as I’ve gotten to play a character that I wouldn’t normally be able to read for. The cast has made it a safe playground to work on that character, ” said Brian Dare who opens and closes the play
Calvin Remsberg exceptionally directed Joe’s play, superbly written and engagingly conveyed. With every passing scene the universal theme became increasingly apparent. While this play deals with gay couplings it has a message that can resonate with everyone. No matter what your preference is, relationships and human interactions are hard, meaningful, memorable, painful and always important as we move along this road called life.