Sleeping with straight men
Not as hot as it sounds.
More from GT Stage
In a 1995 episode of The Jenny Jones Show, straight Jonathan Schmitz was told that gay best friend Scott Amedure had a crush on him. Shortly after, Schmitz shot Amedure dead. Inspired by this, Ronnie Larsen’s play Sleeping with Straight Men (written shortly after) is a darkly comic look at how far we’ll go to find fame.
Camp as Christmas – or should that be Thanksgiving – Stanley (Wesley Dow) is bored by small town life and desperate to leave stifling Pontiac, Michigan. Despite the protestations of his mum (Julie Ross) and best friend, local drag queen Miss Sally (an impressively lunged Martin Milnes), Stanley sees a feature on Jill Jones’ hit talk show as his way out. Confessing he has a crush on handsome (and straight) local waiter Lee (Adam Isdale) Stanley sparks a predictable chain of events which will change everything.
The big question about Larsen’s flimsy comedy is why he has stuck to the events of the real story so closely. I’d like to avoid spoilers, but nothing about this play surprises. The first half plays up the comedy of a gay man desperate to score with a straight; the second covers far too much emotional ground in not enough stage time. The inevitable seduction scene moves from 0-60 in a matter of seconds with a volte-face from Lee which seems wholly out of character and Larsen’s characters are broadly drawn, which isn’t a crime, but the overblown ending requires more investment from the audience than the play has earned.
It is not, however, totally without merit. Paul Taylor-Mills directs a witty, savvy production with some knock-out performances. Amy Anzel, glossy of hair and fixed of smile, is a riot as the manipulative chat show host, while Andrew Beckett as a fast-talking make-up artist gets most of the evening’s laughs. Wesley Dow is blithely sweet as Stanley and Jill Regan brings a rare moment of emotional truth to the girl left behind.
You only have to turn your television on to see real life on screen. But a play whose aim is a satire on a celebrity times needs more sophistication in its analysis if it wants the audience to leave with something. Drag queens, gay sex and death? I can get all that at home, dear.
Sleeping With Straight Men is Above The Stag, London until 12 February 2012.
Words: Dan Usztan
Photo: L-R: Adam Isdale as Lee, Amy Anzel as Jill Johnson and Wesley Dow as Stanley, shot by Derek Drescher