Loyal readers of this newspaper will recognize three names in this new play Have I Got a Girl For You.
Larry Buzzeo, who has performed for 20 years, was featured in four plays reviewed in this newspaper, and Mike Westrich appeared in another one, The Timekeepers.
These excellent male actors are joined in the play by two talented ladies of the stage, Christina Groom and Sharyn Peoples. Groom is a Company Member of New Theatre, while Peoples starred in the production of Next to Normal reviewed here last year.
Produced by Andy Rogow of Island City Stage, Have I Got a Girl For You was written by Josh Mesnik, who was present at Empire Stage in Ft. Lauderdale for the April 3 performance. “This is the world premiere,” enthused Mesnik, who has crafted this play for about three years.
“The basic structure has always been there but it has morphed into a 95-minute-long play.” Mesnik was open to tossing out lines that at first seemed good. “I try not to get too precious about my writing. Some things just don’t work.”
Two of the actors, Buzzeo and Groom, are called upon to portray a variety of characters, sometimes with just a brief moment in between for a hair or clothing change. “I made a living doing multi-track roles,” said Mesnik, “so I wanted to create two meaty roles.”
Both actors rise to the demanding challenges required to display a cast of characters with different accents (including Russian and French) and mannerisms. Buzzeo delivered a show-stopping performance as a guy reliving a wild sexual encounter with a prostitute.
Oops! Did I mention sex and prostitutes? Yes, that it what this play is about (on the surface, at least).
“Prostitution is the only profession where you can get ahead by going in the hole.” “Chaffing is the prostitute’s carpal tunnel”
That are just two of the many examples of sage wisdom imparted to the audience, none of whom left the theatre with any semblance of innocence left. There is no nudity in the play, but plenty of raunch.
References to movie characters and actresses abound. For example, with regard to the very large black woman in the film Precious, we are told “Nobody pays to fuck Gabourey Sidibe.” Sorry, I should have given a TMI warning before quoting that line! But if you don’t know the names Margot Channing and Gwen Verdon, some of the plays’ finest bon mots will float over your head.
Terms used in the “escort agency” trade are humourously imparted to the audience by Westrich (as the character Josh) in a series of lessons interspersed throughout the play. One of these, which brought the house down, is BDE. It stands for back-door entry.
“Like a nightclub, BDE is not granted to all patrons, but if you use enough grease you can usually slip in!!”
While just the superficial aspects of the play provide a delightful soufflé (and one that most playwrights would be content with offering to an audience), one must have a look inside the soufflé to see what it is that Mesnik has created.
As Josh says near the beginning of the play, his type of man requires a fatal flaw. “He is totally my type – hot, but something wrong with him.” Josh falls for a guy, portrayed by Buzzeo, who eventually dumps him when Josh’s real job as the front-man for a call girl agency comes to light.
The agency is run with ruthlessness by Gina (portrayed by Peoples), who hires the gay man Josh to answer the phones and set up clients with her girls. Gina’s daughter (played by Groom) conspires with Josh to set up a rival bordello, and also drive a jealous wedge between Gina and her husband (also played by Buzzeo).
This witches’ brew of sordid sex, corporate backstabbing and marital fights reflects a line Josh delivered at the beginning of the play: “It doesn’t get any lower than this.”
Fresh from a bundle of wins at the Carbonnell Awards a few days ago, Island City Stage has another winner on its hands with this production.
Island City Stage announced on March 30 that it has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the John C. Graves Fund and the Community Foundation of Broward County to support the “Island City Stage LGBT Series.” Artistic Director Andy Rogow said, “We are very grateful to receive this level of support, especially given that we are only in the middle of our sophomore season. It’s an important recognition not only of the quality of the work we are presenting, but also that there is a need in Broward County and the LGBT community for this type of cultural organization.”
Photo caption, from left to right: Peoples, Westrich, Buzzeo, Groom.
For ticket details, visit their website: islandcitystage.org
Their next production, Pride, begins May 8, 2014.
Photos with this article are copyright Cliff Cunningham