Photo by James ShermanA tiny, 80-seat, city-sponsored community theater in a building on the edge of a quiet park surrounded by sleepy, well-manicured tract homes is not a typical setting for edgy productions. Rooms like these usually feel obligated to stage MusicManrevivals.
So considering its audience—which, on this night at least, was well-stocked with senior citizens—you'd think that the Garden Grove Playhouse would avoid staging anything that could potentially get Granny's diapers in a twist. Especially anything overtly G-A-Y, which is the central thrust of James Sherman's Mr.80%.
We were concerned that the folks who run the playhouse picked this comedy just to give the bluehairs an excuse to laugh at those shrieky, limp-wristed, girly-girly fags like they used to do back in the '70s (and considering that Mr.80%'ssynopsis on the GGP's web page promised "swishy high jinks," we had good reason). The play isn't as bad as we expected it to be, though as queer-themed theater, it's not exactly TheLaramieProject(which happens to be the GGP's next production)—or even Jeffrey.
The plot is strictly Three'sCompany:roommates Patricia (Mary Fae Smith) and Sharon (Margaret Elise St. Clair) need help with rent on their New York apartment—and only another woman or a gay male will do. They get a response from Sam (Josh Polizzi) and Jan (Angel Correa), a pair of straight men who are willing to play a gay couple so they can live cheap. Of course, nothing would make Sam and Jan happier than to be freely able to bone their roomies. Let the "swishy high jinks" begin!
Or not. Sherman's play is far too dated, even for farce, to ring with the smallest amount of truth. Sam and Jan are so over-the-top flamboyant with their lisping, prancing and arm-waving (we're talking Carson Kressley times 10 here; even drag queens don't camp it up like these two) that it's hard to fathom anyone couldn't see right through them. The one who does, Sharon's gay (and gaydar-equipped) friend Leslie (Tim Gale), turns out to be the sanest of the bunch. And Sharon herself is a complete idiot—really, for a play that takes place in present-day New York, she should be able to tell immediately that Sam is just a really lousy actor trying to get into her snatch.
Mr.80%is all fluff, the kind of gay-but-not-that-gay play a writer couldn't really get away with today (we don't know when Sherman penned his script, but—modern references to Ryan Seacrest and Will&Graceaside—we'd be surprised if it was after 1989). At its worst, the play gives the impression that allgays act like prissy flamethrowers, and if they don't, then they're reciting lines from TheWizardofOz.There are some funny lines, but nothing you'll remember once you make it back to your car for the drive home. It's a play only the bluehairs could love.
MR. 80% AT THE GARDEN GROVE PLAYHOUSE, 12001 SAINT MARK ST., GARDEN GROVE, (714) 897-5122. FRI.-SAT., 8:30 P.M. THROUGH JUNE 25. $14-$15.