Boys Just Wanna Have Fun
nytheatre.com review by Matt Schicker
March 2, 2007
Boys Just Wanna Have Fun was created by people who work primarily in television, and you can tell. Normally, this would be a strike against a play—the mediums of television and live theater have little in common except for basic storytelling—but in the case of this particular show, the mindset of quick, easy jokes and easily recognizable and digestible plot clichés makes for a moderately fun, super-lightweight evening out. A late Friday night show at 10pm seems like maybe the best way to see this show after (or before) hitting the bar with friends to kick off the weekend in the West Village.
While somewhat enjoyable on a surface level, it's also very easy to rip Boys Just Wanna apart. The plot is equal parts Will & Grace, Three's Company, and Friends—nothing original here. Misunderstandings and farcical situations abound, and it's all punctuated by quick, often cheap, one-liners. The playwrights are Anthony J. Wilkinson (who also plays the lead role of Ralph) and Teresa Ann Cicala (the show's co-director), who both work in the world of soap operas "by day," and it occurred to me that perhaps the show is a coffee- and lunch-breaks collaboration between two best friends bored with their day jobs. Whether it is or not, it seems like it for sure: Boys Just Wanna has the informal feel of a bunch of students clowning around for the amusement of their friends and family rather than a production executed by professionals. And because Wilkinson plays the principal character himself, it also feels dangerously like a vanity project. But more on that later.
The story goes something like this: Undercover NYPD detectives Ralph and Lauren are on a mission to infiltrate a drug ring at a Staten Island gay bar, but end up personally entangled in the club's social scene. Closeted Ralph begins an affair with the local hunk, then thinks the hunk is at the center of the drug operation, and comic antics ensue. It's all very predictable and you've seen it all before, but fortunately there are some zany personalities on stage to make it fun and moderately interesting.
Chad Kessler and Kevin McIntyre steal the show as the drag divas Pontessa Puree and Mateo Dupris. Kessler's bug-eyed, sweaty lip-synched renditions of famous Streisand tunes are perfectly ridiculous and Kessler and McIntyre's Donna Summer/Barbra Streisand duet of "Enough Is Enough" a la Lady Godiva is so hilarious it leaves you wanting more.
Randi Kaplan, who plays the loud-mouthed Connie Profacci, is a terrific comic actress in the vein of many great, uproarious comediennes, including Joan Rivers and Roseanne Barr. She gets maximum mileage out of a joke through skillful timing. I'm going to be on the lookout for Kaplan in other venues.
Rachel Valdati plays Lauren Vitale, Ralph's detective partner, and she's a worthy sidekick. Erik Ransom as the bitchy Joey Defrancesco takes a while to warm up, but once he hits his stride, he is adept at slinging sharp-edged comebacks. Kevin P. Smith, Jonathan Lang, Vincent Iannuzzi, Liz Gerecitano, Adam Ferguson, and Philip Andrew Brock all are fine in their various ensemble roles.
One of the most fun things about Boys Just Wanna is its setting in the mid-1980s. The designers have gone full-force with the retro look, and it's a big part of the comedy. Bernard Grenier's over-the-top costumes set the party-time mood, and Bob Bessoir's disco lighting is just right (interestingly, Bessoir was assistant lighting designer for the original Torch Song Trilogy, also in Actors Playhouse, according to his bio).
So back to the co-author/star: it seems clear that the raison d'etre of the play and production is to showcase Anthony J. Wilkinson's "Italian Staten Island gay" persona, which apparently also was put to use a few years ago in My Big Gay Italian Wedding, which I did not see. On Wilkinson's entrance, the opening night audience went wild, practically rolling in the aisles before he said a word. He's a good-looking guy and his Ralph is a half-way decent comic character—a kind of "mama's boy" with pecs—but ultimately I just didn't care that much what happened to Ralph and the hunk of his dreams, Danny Delmonico (played by Tom Baran). If I were drunk and surrounded by some of my loudest, funniest friends, maybe I'd have as good a time as Wilkinson and company are having at Boys Just Wanna Have Fun.