THEATER REVIEW: Barn’s ‘Lucky’ is light farce from darker time

Theater Barn / You Should Be So Lucky

INDEED, YOU SHOULD be so lucky as this sweet, vulnerable, oddball gay-guy Christopher, who gets rewarded for his good deeds with love and money.

At the end of the play, the audience is left with some Cinderella satisfactions (sly Cinderella and Oz references abound) and/or a suspicion that the playwright is saying, “Look, look you dumb-clucks how easily you were taken in by this fantasy. And by the way, audience, gay guys are just like the rest of you, except that Christopher is a bit better than you.”

This duality was the play’s marketing genius, especially featuring the gay life in the 1990s, when gay sex seemed more naughty than it does now.

Of course, we are now so accustomed to non-traditional sexual identities that the play’s zingy, marketing value has faded somewhat. (Even the grey-heads at the Theater Barn did not wince at a fleeting mime of gay sex.)

Charles Busch became famous coming on to stages all glitzed and glammed as female movie-star personae. And without the cross-dressing thing, Charles probably would have become priced out of his Village apartment and mired in New Jersey temp work. He’s talented, but he’s no Tony Kushner—nor does he try to be.

Going with shock-jockular was definitely good marketing, but after Busch’s rags-to-bitches evolution, he created the mildly autobiographical main character without drag. ”Lucky” is basically a soft sell.

After creating wildly successful works including “The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife” and “Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,” along with doing films, musicals, cabaret acts, plus directing, producing, acting and TV gigs, there is not much left in the escape professions for Charles Busch to do.

The “Lucky” production at the Theater Barn in New Lebanon, directed by Phil Rice, is occasionally over-the-top physically, emphasizing the play’s deficits; but generally Rice uses the space extremely well—especially that sofa, clad in a huge, folksy orange quilt. Example: At the end of the first act, a tight-knit trio, with a ghost leaning over them, falls in satisfying unison into a very satisfying, quilt-framed picture.

Abe Phelps’ set is a visual joke to keep your mind occupied during any dull parts in the play. Plum-colored wallpaper with rents in illogical places fights to the death with the huge crocheted, orange quilt. A filthy, ancient air conditioner spars with a filthy door for the filthy award. Kitschy stuff adorns the walls, and the most grotesque royal blue-patterned side chair you have never encountered dominates stage left. (Geez Abe. The poorest gay guy I ever met never had taste that bad!)

Only the wonderful John Trainor as Mr. Rosenberg and the wonderful Daniel Dunlow as Christopher fully understand how to give farce its reality underpinnings. (The others pretty much paste it on.) Dunlow’s Christopher is consistently adorable without sinking to saccharine, and he does the character’s transition handily. Trainor covers a ghostly play-writing flaw with his habitual honesty. Stephen Powell as Christopher’s lover, Walter, is reminiscent of the irresistible, super-feminized, character in the TV series “Will and Grace.”

Is it my imagination or, in real life, are these exaggerated gay behaviors becoming less and less abundant? Perhaps they are no longer necessary due to the normalization of the gay life. And how much of the normalization is due to plays like “Lucky,” films like “The Kids Are All Right,” and series like “Will and Grace“? Culture often follows media, as all propagandists know.

The play runs through July 6. Call 518 794-8989 for tickets.

 

 

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