You'd think a comedy called Middle-Aged White Guys would be confrontational, biting, satirical—worthy at least of a halfway funny redneck gag. Or maybe it would take the higher road, commenting instead on the inanity of blaming society's problems on a select racial profile. But Jane Martin's Middle-Aged White Guys doesn't do either. It's a punch-pulling, un-funny play about three right-wing brothers. There's Roy (Stan Jenson), a prayer-in-schools mayor of the small town where he and his kin grew up; he spends the play decked out in an Abe Lincoln costume for a Fourth of July fireworks show. Simple-minded Clem (Kent Vaughan) runs the local gun store, and Moon (Bob Tully) is a soldier of fortune who has busied himself fighting in several countries since his 'Nam stint.
The brothers have convened in a junkyard to pay homage to the late R.V. (April Madigan), a woman with whom all three trysted before she offed herself some 20 years earlier. R.V. doesn't want to stay planted, though (her name is a pun on the Official Middle-Aged White Guy's Transport, we assume), so she returns as an angel of doom, telling the brothers they must prepare for their Judgment Day. Enter that Lord-God-King White Guy, Elvis (Matt Cook). Can Elvis redeem Roy, Clem and Moon, living embodiments of bad white men everywhere? Yes, Elvis says, not long after he arrives onstage by kicking through a refrigerator door as snazzy disco lights whirl inside the theater and tossing out Quaaludes as if they were blessings. Elvis' guidance: march buck naked to Washington, D.C., and repent your sins.
It would have been easy to spend an entire play bashing white men. But Martin (a pseudonym) doesn't give us even an overabundance of clichs; it's a sad commentary on her script that the addition of just a few hackneyed observations might have improved it—the laughs would have been familiar, but at least they would have been laughs.
At a mere 65 minutes, Middle-Aged White Guys feels more like a work in progress than fleshed-out art. For something that's meant to provoke, it simply isn't provocative. It's often sloppy just when precision counts, as when Moon remembers a tragic mercenary mission: it's a flicker of power, quickly forgotten and not touched upon again. Even the full-frontal male nudity we're promised is somewhat underwhelming—more dick time, please! But the Rude Guerrilla Theater Co.—especially Susan Shearer as the wigged-out, pistol-wielding Mona—do the best they can with what they've got.
Middle-Aged White Guys by the Rude Guerrilla Theater Co. at the Empire Theater, 200 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, (714) 547-4688. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 p.m.; Thurs., May 30, 8 p.m. Through June 2. $12-$15.
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