nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 17, 2006
Edenville, a new romantic comedy by Gregory Fletcher being offered as part of Emerging Artists Theatre's Triple Threat, is a charmer. It tells the story of Jules, a smart and handsome young gay man in search of Mr. Right (played by the likably hunky Sebastian La Cause). He keeps looking for love, as a song once said, in all the wrong places—where he keeps finding variations on the same Mr. Wrong (all played by the winning Josh Berresford). Finally, as we in the audience have known from practically the very beginning, he discovers his true life partner, in the last place he'd thought to look, right under his nose.
As the foregoing synopsis suggests, the evening's outcome is not much in question in Edenville. Yet the play delivers delightful surprise after delightful surprise in the context of a very familiar tale. Many of the surprises come from a fellow known only as "CEO," the founder of a company called Edenville, a dating service that seems too good to be true and consequently probably isn't (one of the neat things that Fletcher does throughout is never let us know for sure how much of what's going on is just in Jules's very active imagination).
CEO speaks the language of musical comedy, by which I mean that just about every single word that comes out of his mouth was written by Stephen Sondheim or Oscar Hammerstein or Jerry Herman or some other famous lyricist. (CEO is even known to sing on occasion.) Musical mavens know what great wisdom lies within the shows of yore, and they particularly will get a kick out of identifying the many, many allusions and quotations that comprise CEO's hilarious, campy dialogue.
Another unexpected element of Edenville is the relationship between Jules and his Dad. After the opening scene, which culminates in a fight between Jules and his then-current boyfriend David, Jules moves in (temporarily) with his father. The two men have a lot in common, including the same profession (photographer); Fletcher depicts them as grown-ups and friends, even though there are some fundamental things about each other (e.g., Jules's sexuality) that they just don't get. They're accepting and caring; paragons, really, of the kinds of relationships that gay and straight people can and should have in a world that sets aside hangups and trades solely in love. Nick Ruggeri plays Jules's Dad beautifully; he and La Cause have real chemistry, making this relationship the strongest one in the show. This is perhaps the thing I liked the most about Edenville.
But I really liked all of it, even as I knew that Fletcher was going through the motions in places of what a standard-issue gay comedy is "supposed to" include. So in addition to the myriad musical theatre references, there's also plenty of faux bitchy/campy banter, several scenes in cruisy bars, and the obligatory nude scene (La Cause and Berresford checking each other out as part of the Edenville dating service; rear only). Yet all of this familiar stuff is couched in enough wit and irreverence that it not only feels engagingly welcome and fun, but even original.
Best of all, Fletcher inserts a completely gratuitous (and entirely entertaining) dance sequence, in which Jules teaches a would-be boyfriend how to move. La Cause is a terrific dancer, and here, choreographed by Ryan Kasprzak, he displays his talents to music borrowed from Bernstein and others.
Edenville would be better if it held together more robustly: apart from this single dance routine, there's nothing to connect Jules to the world of musical theatre (and indeed everything we know about him grounds him in a very different milieu). So why is a guy spouting lyrics from musicals haunting his dreams? This problem notwithstanding, Edenville is a sweet, warm, and funny comedy. Tom Wotjunik's staging is excellent, making great use of a simple but effective unit set by Bill Pollock and fun and appropriate costumes by Sarah Stubble. Gary Cowling (CEO) and Adrian Anchondo (Roberto, Jules's love interest) round out the cast.