Living arrangements

Posted on 29 Mar 2013 at 9:45am

Booking a room between DTC’s fussy classic and two new gay plays

stage

CONDOM MINIMUM | The better of the two one-acts making up ‘The Apartment Plays’ involves handsome young twinks in love … and in trouble.

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ON THE BOARDS
THE ODD COUPLE at the Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St.  Through April 14. DallasTheaterCenter.org.
THE APARTMENT PLAYS at the Green Zone, 161 Riveredge Drive. Through April 6. UpstartTheater.com.

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The awkwardness that comes with sharing a space with someone is a story as old as the Bible itself, but Dallas theaters are looking at it afresh this week.

At Dallas Theater Center, it’s the subject of the most famous of mismatched roommates, Neil Simon’s 1965 three-acter The Odd Couple. The TV series established the parameters of messy Oscar (J. Anthony Crane) and fussy Felix (Michael Mastro) — it’s the same basic premise of the first season of Frasier — but there’s still a lot to discover in this well-trod classic.

Simon has always been known as a jokemeister, but there’s often darkness to his plays, as here: Felix is suicidal; divorce — still a taboo in the ‘60s — is dealt with frankly. Director Kevin Moriarty doesn’t shy from those themes, but what he has really presented us is a straightforward comedy, with the two leads (hunky ham Crane versus nasally deadpan Mastro) showing great chemistry. The casting of two black actresses as the Pigeon Sisters could have added an anachronistic element, but actually their bad accents are far more distracting than their race. It matters little — the men, including their poker buddies — move all the heavy furniture.

Bruce R. Coleman steals more from Woody Allen than from Simon, especially in the second play in a collection of one-acts at the Design District’s Green Zone, which he wrote and directed, called The Apartment Plays. Of the two, it’s the show closer, Larry Kramer Hates Me, that stands out.

In this raucous sex comedy, 20something twinks Josh and Drew (Gregg Geraldi and Angel Velasco) contemplate having unprotected sex. Quicker than you can say deus ex machina, all of Josh’s former lovers, as well as his own conscience — manifested in the persona of abrasive AIDS activist Larry Kramer (Rick Espaillat) — appear to tell Drew what a selfish heel Josh really is. It’s a joyous bit of nonsense punctuated by lessons about maturity and safe sex, but those don’t overwhelm the fun, especially with Espaillat hilarious as the foul-mouthed Kramer and a half-naked Heath Billups as Josh’s intellectual hunky ex.

It clearly overshadows the first act, A Conversation with a (Potentially) Naked Man, Coleman’s dourly autobiographical two-hander about an emotionally repressed painter and the male model he hires to pose nude for him. Even the sexy model (played by Marcus Stimac, who does get naked, but acts well when clothed, too) is no salvation for this mawkish and over-long tale of “redemption” and “honesty.’ It tries way too hard to be meaningful. If you’re gonna cram everyone into an apartment for more than two hours, keep it light — nobody wants cabin fever.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 29, 2013,

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