Why Does It Sting When I Pee?
nytheatre.com review by Komail Aijazuddin
November 10, 2006
Why Does It Sting When I Pee? opens with an acutely overacted scene of a man seducing too-forward co-worker, accessorized with painful word plays. It is only when a director (James Cole, played by the show's real-life director Tom Thornton) storms onstage to interrupt the actors that we realize that the affected dialogue, awkward staging and shaky acting is, in fact, an audition within a play.
Unfortunately, what follows is not significantly more successful.
The narrative follows a gay man (the whiny Andrew, played by Todd Cowdery) as he tries to make a living as an actor. Struggling to make ends meet, Andrew decides that he wants to thoroughly research a role (a prison inmate) to make his performance realistic and his casting an eventuality. Unfortunately, the best way he thinks to do this is to be incarcerated in a real prison. He convinces his friend Catherine (played by Mary Murphy), his alcoholic neighbor Lilly (played by Janice Mann), and her pubescent son Simon (played by Jesse Tendler) to help him get caught, clamped, and caged—all in the name of art.
Felipe Ossa's script is at heart an underdeveloped exploration of a quasi-interesting story arc. The characters are little more than pale caricatures that leave an already skeptical audience alienated. Even short vignettes showcasing scenes from porn movies, a ground fertile for satire and wit, come across as humorless and labored.
Murphy plays the sensible best friend well and Mann's alcoholic, aspiring socialite mother is funny and entertaining. Both offer the audience a reprieve from a choppy and lackluster script. Although there are other strong performances scattered around (random shop assistants, porn stars, and prison guards) they do not compensate for the slow-moving plot and unremarkable dialogue. Cowdery's Andrew, on stage for most of the performance, irritates rather than engages with what amounts to an impersonation of a bumbling, clumsy adolescent. Most of the rest of the players present us with well-worn, stale stereotypes. The accents are particularly problematic: British drawls are an amalgam of Australian-meets-Park Slope while the Latin accents sound disturbingly Russian.
Coles's direction feels heavy handed and counter-productive. The performance is broken up by several distracting scene changes that slow the play's pace badly.