Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for CurtainUp NYC Weather
|A CurtainUp Review
Making Peter Pope
Do we need yet another variation on the by now familiar serio-comedy about a troubled gay man and at least some relatives who are anti-gay? Probably not unless such plays offer some fresh insights, characters and exceptional writing. This is especially true if playwrights are interested in reaching beyond a niche audience. The recently reviewed Triptych and Beautiful Thing(see links at end) demonstrate the potential for plays with a core appeal to gay man to attract and engage a wider audience. That brings us to Making Peter Pope currently being given a limited run by the Harbor Theatre.
Edmund DeSantis has given his play an interesting structure by having the central character serve as narrator and participant in his story, from the period leading up to his mother's death and through the events of the year after. Like someone making a tape, he constantly edits his narration and the parts of it that are dramatized. The narrative is not sequential but skips back and forth from the present to various points in time. The play's biggest achievement is that you're never confused about what is happening and when. There are also two likeable (though familiar) main characters in Peter Pope-alias Peter Popo (Harry Bouvy) and his lover Henry Lamberti (Eric Morace).
The play as a whole is less interesting than its methodology. At two hours and twenty minutes (intermission included), it takes too long to say what's been said as well if not better elsewhere.
The death of the Popo family matriarch in Lima, Ohio is the pivotal event forcing Peter to confront his relationship with mom (who appears only as a ghostly voice by Lucy McMichael) and his father Leo (Fred Velde) who is a potentially interesting character but not particularly so as portrayed . Peter is aware of his father's diffiulty in accepting him, a situation exacerbated by the fact that his sister Anna (Carol Hache) is a lesbian who is in a constant state of rage, poverty and despair. This being Peter's coming-to-grips years, his plate of troubles is heaped with an additional helping of new relatives: Neva (Joanne Dorian) the sequin and fun enamored divorcee who gets her hooks into dear old dad before Mama Popo's body has cooled for a decent intervil, her cartoon-y, drug-addicted daughter Faye (Alysia Reiner) and her nasty, homophic husband Jeff (Michael Anderson).
The stereotypes and stereotypical problems fly all over the place, step-sister-to-be Faye floats on and off stage in a pink party outfit and vinyl wig that is as exaggerated as everything about these Midwestern dysfunctionals. Eventually Peter does cut loose from his Ohio connections and his commitment phobia -- enabled by his lovable hunk. To add a geographic cliche to all the others, Henry the hunk is from Queens, the stereotypical metaphor for lower middle class, poorly educated New Yorkers. Oh, and yes, there's the specter of AIDS to insure that the tragedy and comedy masks get equal time.
The small stage is used to good adventure and director Derek Todd keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. Judging from the full house at the performance I attended the company clearly has a following even though it wasn't quite my flavor of marinara.
LINKS TO OTHER REVIEWS MENTIONED