What Happens in Vegas… comes to the off-Broadway Stage! JOE MARSHALL’S "A NIGHT IN VEGAS"

What Happens in Vegas… comes to the off-Broadway Stage!

    As one of the actors of Joe Marshall’s award-winning play “A Night In Vegas” stated after the show, “The main character is the room itself!”  The room he speaks of is the glaringly-colored, tackily decorated Room # 1417 in “the Gayest Hotel on the Strip”.  Oh, if these bright fuchsia-pink walls could speak!  As it turns out, they don’t need to: The audience gets to be voyeur to all the sex, drama, and comedy worthy of The Entertainment Capital of the World.  In the first scene, lovers of eight years Ted (Nicholas Pierro) and Steven (Kelly Riley) are on an anticipated “dream vacation” in Vegas.  (Those of us making a case for marriage equality should note that these two bicker just as much as your average straight couple.) Any notions of a romantic getaway are lost when the duo soon find themselves interrupted more than Mae West on her honeymoon in the 1978 camp classic “Sextette”.  Meet Toby (played to campy perfection by Joe Fanelli), an ultra-sarcastic hustler who’s as quick to drop the verbal torpedoes as he is to drop his pants.  He’s looking for room 7141, but he’s dyslexic.  Guess whose room he ends up in?! Add to the mix a horny bellhop (Edy Escamilla) and Toby’s john (Denis Hawkins) who winds up dead, and you have a distinctly American-style farce at its best.  And, it’s just the beginning, boys and girls…

     The comedy vignettes in “A Night in Vegas”– particularly the kickoff scene and the finale– evoke the early films of openly gay Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar.  Like that director, Marshall uses over-the-top situations, quirky characters, blindingly bright color schemes, a good dose of dark humor, and more than a touch of sexuality to create his own one-of-a-kind queer-flavored universe.   The play shifts from comedy to a two-character drama with “Rick and Andrew”.  Andrew (Jason Romas) is a horny party boy, and Rick (Drew Stark) is a bisexual guy who’s dealing with a rather deep issue.  En route to the answer to the question of “Will they or won’t they?“, there’s some seriously honest dialogue between two seemingly lost souls.  Touching as it is, the scene is not without its humor.   As many theater affecianadoes know, it isn’t easy to successfully blend comedy and drama on the stage.  At the hands of a less talented director or actors, “A Night of Vegas” could have seemed like a bunch of divergent short stories thrown together, struggling to find its center.  On the contrary, Marshall and his cast make it flow like the free drinks at a Las Vegas casino– and the end result is as equally intoxicating.  Many smart themes are explored: gay marriage, family dynamics, self-esteem among gay men, and negotiating safer sex… but even the most engaging moments have their sharp humor.   “Did You Hear That?” features two gay characters that are under-represented in the theater: Tom (Denis Hawkins) is blind, Marc (Chris von Hoffmann) is deaf.  And, they don’t like each other!  This scene incorporates expert physical comedy and superb acting (In the case of the deaf character Tom, almost all of it wordless acting.), but it’s never exploits the characters’ disabilities for a laugh.  In the fifth vignette, we meet “Helen and Jack”, a long-married couple who are in Las Vegas for their son Chaz’ gay wedding.  Jack (Bill Purdy), the father, is practically a poster boy for P-FLAG, but the conservative mother Helen (Ali Grieb) just doesn’t “get it”.  (When speaking to Chaz about her son’s fiance, she offers, “No, I’m happy for you, honey.  Yes, honey, I am.  No, I’m OK.  It’s just that… well I just wish it could be different.  I’m sure he’s a wonderful man… couldn’t you both find two nice girls and…“)   As the sole woman in the play,  Helen’s “no-harm-meant” but clueless views on gay marriage are so blissfully ignorant, yet often so funny, that it’s hard to either really like or really dislike her.  The mother’s antics– possibly one step away from all-out hysteria– clearly evoke filmmaker John Waters, who loves to lampoon middle class suburban mores.  The final scene, “TwentySomething”  has 20-year old hottie Josh (Scott Lilly) literally waking up in Vegas– naked, with a guy old enough to be his father in his bed and two other hot-to-trot guys in the room as well.  As he tries to discover what exactly happened (Can you say “wet underwear contest”?), more over-the-top hilarity ensues… but fear not, there’s a happy–and rather sweet– ending.

     “A Night in Vegas” features a dynamic cast who plays every scene with gusto, as well as a seemingly infinite supply of priceless one-liners and puns… and, lest I forget, the occasional naked guy.  The very first line we hear is Ted, looking around the notorious room, declaring “This room sucks!”  It’s a campy descendant of Bette Davis’ famous “What a dump!” from “Beyond the Forest”.   Joe Marshall’s “A Night in Vegas” is a side of Las Vegas that you WON’T see in those cheesy TV commercials… but I guarantee, this visit to Sin City is a night you won’t forget!

      “A Night in Vegas” is presented by The Alternative Theatre Company and is playing at The Bleecker Street Theatre, 45 Bleecker Street.  Premium seats are $50 and general admission are $35.  Tickets are available at  www.Telecharge.com. ; Visit www.ANightinVegas.com for more info!

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