theatre reviews
Volume 19/Issue 20/2001

Georgeby George Patterson
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Party at Cowpokes' New Theatre
Called The Barn is Campy
Not-To-Be-Missed Strip Show

If you like to gaze upon toned, youthful male flesh and watch genitalia bounce and bobble about, you'll find a smorgasbord of such in the new comedy called Party that's currently on display at The Barn, a brand-new theatre right behind Cowpokes bar at 2240 St. Claude Ave. at Marigny St.

The actual entrance to the theatre itself is around the corner on Marigny.

party Producer David Syner, who is presenting a thoroughly professional production of this 1992 play by Chicagoan David Dillon (which ran for two years in Chicago before being presented in New York and London), has invested a considerable amount of money and effort in transforming a multi-purpose meeting hall that is Cowpokes' Barn into a new New Orleans theatre venue which was packed to SRO capacity at a recent preview performance sponsored by the Krewe of Petronius.

This production also marks the beginning of a national tour that will see this production going to Richmond, Atlanta, Key West, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Hartford, Washington D.C., Milwaukee, Seattle and ending up in Amsterdam in 2002.

Owing its soul and its raison d'etre to earlier Gay themed plays, most notably The Boys in the Band, the very long one-act play, given a breakneck pace and heaped with clever bits by director Randy Brenner, concerns a party of seven single Gay men at one's rather non-descript (but cleverly designed) apartment. After the guests have arrived and gotten their drinks, they begin to play a game called Facts, Fiction and Fantasy similar to Truth or Dare except this game has that nebulous "fantasy" angle. There are large cards with one of these three directives on them which they draw and then do what the card says. The Facts part gives us some information concerning these characters, all of whom do not stop spouting campy putdowns that go from the cliched to the sublimely original in a hit or miss volley that keeps a savvy audience in belly laughs for much of the evening. Unfortunately, the Fiction part immediately negates whatever deep dark secret has just been divulged.

The playwright, David Dillon, plays Ray, the campiest of the campers (and the oldest). He is the substitute for Harvey Fierstein/Nathan Lane/Cliff Gorman - the fey, glib-lipped one who is a living, breathing musical comedy/camp encyclopedia, and an ex Catholic priest!

As the jello shots they all imbibe begin to take effect, the game does not get either bitchier or more soul and character bearing (as in The Boys in the Band) but instead the cast members begin losing clothes in giddy abandon as Fantasies are demanded, like "strip naked and do twenty jumping jacks," or "strip naked and have your back massaged by Ray," or "strip to your underwear and kiss Peter for 30 seconds," until, voila, only two of the seven are left clothed, but that soon changes as they are attacked and also stripped nude so that the cast can collapse onto the Pottery Barn sofa, at last, all flesh and pecs and lats and abs and penises and testicles, and raise a toast to their nudity and their freedom - a freedom that may be sharply curtailed in the months to come as the Republicans [try to] clamp down on our rights under the rubric of national security or some such - for this is a play from that more innocent time called the Twentieth Century.

The cast is comprised of Jairus Abts, Jerry Banks, the aformentioned David Dillon, Brian Grosdidier, Gregory Lawson, Derrol Murphy, and Kevin Steinburg, all from points west (California) or north (Canada, Chicago). Even though playwright Dillon has interpolated local references (the Phoenix Bar, Ben and Jerry's in Jackson Square, going to Houston by way of Beaumont, etc.) these thoroughly professional actors display no speech regionalisms whatsoever (overlooked references to "hoagies" and "deli-bowls" reveal the Chicago connection of this play). What's more, these actors, to a man, are completely un-selfconscious in the all-together while continuing to maintain their individual characters, none of whom grow or change from their experience at this particular party where only fun, good times and total, carefree abandon are the order of the night.

If you are an afcionado of the male physique and like to laugh and, well, party, don't miss this theatrical bonbon from producer David Syner whose real gift to New Orleans is a new theatre which will continue to offer entertainment long after Party has folded its yellow, brown and white apartment set designed by Adam Davis (with lighting by Amy Rubin) and moved to Richmond, VA.

LPO's Opening Concert with the Romero Quartet

WYES-TV, New Orleans' PBS affiliate, did a great local service for the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra's very first concert of the 2001-02 season recently when it aired an hour documentary on Spain's unique family of classical guitarists, the Romeros, who were featured soloists for that concert.

The timely publicity helped to fill the Orpheum Theatre even as the tragedy of the week kept some subscribers away.

Although this quartet, comprised of two brothers and their grown sons, marking the third generation (Celedonio Romero, the father and grandfather being the first), has lived and worked in America now for many years, they made their Louisiana Philharmonic debut in the week of the tragic WTC disaster and had driven for 16 hours straight to make the "gig."

Their part of the concert was comprised of the three-part Concierto Andaluz by Joaquin Rodrigo for four guitars and orchestra which brought the audience to its collective feet. The very good-looking Latinos, natives of Malaga, Spain, performed a rip-roaring "Nights in Malaga" was their encore.

Their Concerto was sandwiched between the solemn adagio from Beethoven's Symphony # 9 (which, due to the gravity of the moment, was a substitute for the more upbeat Richard Strauss' Don Juan, originally scheduled) and Tchaikovsky's exhilerating Symphony No. 4 in F minor.

The orchestra, under the direction of maestro Klauspeter Seibel, was more than inspired. It was simply sublime. As William Congreve said, "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, To soften rocks or bend the knotted oak..." In these uncertain times, a dose of this kind of medicine can literally take one out of oneself and transport one to a safer, happier place. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra is better than therapy. And there are plenty of seats waiting for you to fill them.

For information on LPO's next concert, see On The Boards.


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