By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Put the gay boys of Love! Valour! Compassion! on that beauty shop set at CTD and you'd hardly notice a difference. You'd think a gay playwright would be a mite more sensitive about stereotypes, particularly when it comes to the queer nation, but no, McNally goes right for jokes about Ethel Merman and Liberace.
If Magnolias ends up saying nothing at all, this play tries to say too many things at once. One minute it's about the ravages of AIDS, the next it shows its gay men bed-hopping and cheating on their mates without a second thought. It wants to be both sassy and sentimental, politically conscious and politically correct. And so it ends up in a muddle, reduced to depicting gay men as limp-wristed, emotionally wounded, promiscuous wisecrackers. Nothing valiant or compassionate about that.
The strongest character in Uptown's production, directed by Doug Miller, is Buzz (B.J. Cleveland doing his best Nathan Lane impression), who declares himself a "gay imp" and dresses like a tropical cocktail. But McNally also provides a narrator, John Jeckyll (Steve Iwanski), who wanders onstage alone to read to the audience from the purloined journal of his host, Gregory Mitchell (Scott Meek), a depressed choreographer with a stutter. Gregory's boyfriend is blind Bobby Brahms (Regan Adair, this production's one truly subtle actor), a sweet soul given monologues about God's unconditional love. When he's not smelling roses, he's secretly making out with John's meaty young boyfriend, Ramon.
John's nicer, more queenly twin James (also played by Iwanski, giving both characters distinctly different personalities) shows up and falls in love with Buzz. Perry (Bryan T. Donovan) and Arthur (Mark Shum) are button-down business types who've lived as a couple for 12 years. They don't do much of anything.
On three all-boy weekends during one summer, the men visit the country house, where they argue, gossip, tease and do each other's hair. Oh, no, wait, that was back at Miss Truvy's.
They do go skinny-dipping, with the cast going for the full monty in full view of the audience as they pretend-swim in the invisible lake. Then somebody dies and we're supposed to cry.
At least the Magnolias keep their clothes on.