nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
September 5, 2008
Sometimes the best way to tell a story is the simplest way. This thought kept occurring to me throughout the production of Two Spoons, Peter Mercurio's new play about a pair of gay dads whose journey toward a blissful wedding day is interrupted by a hunky diversion on a trip to Philadelphia.
There's a delightful, sexy romantic comedy at the core of this material, one that I wish wasn't so buried among the other stuff that Mercurio and director Chuck Blasius have surrounded it with. Larry and Steve are a happy couple of seven years standing; Larry's a counselor at a center for at-risk LGBT youth and Steve is a web designer/animator. They have a three-year-old son named Matthew. They're planning to get married (or as close an approximation to that as the law will allow). They're utterly ordinary, utterly square.
Larry and Steve head to Philadelphia for a business trip (Larry's). On the last evening there, in the steam room at their hotel gym, they suddenly find themselves being flirted with by a hot younger guy (whom they christen "Butt Boy"). Steve whispers to Larry, "should we ask him up to our room?" Larry surprises everybody by doing just that. Back in Room 1907, the two men wait anxiously: will "Butt Boy" show up? If he does, what will happen? If he does, and if something happens, what will happen to their soon-to-be-codified relationship?
These questions all get answered, mostly hilariously but also often insightfully, as the play progresses. The setup is outstanding: what will these two faithfully monogamous men do when temptation arises? Their fish-out-of-water fling is entirely believable; we laugh with them all the way through it.
But Mercurio doesn't stop here; instead there's symbolic stuff layered onto this great story. Matthew, their three-year-old, keeps popping up as narrator. Fantasy sequences slow the storytelling down repeatedly. Lots of exposition is delivered as direct address to the audience, which is mostly very distancing. And the idea that this flirtation with "Butt Boy" is somehow emblematic of some bigger problem Steve is having with the impending marriage feels very unmotivated; we just don't have any other information to support it.
In the end, it feels like Mercurio has somehow concluded that the delicious sex farce/cautionary fable at the center of Two Spoons is insufficient for an evening of theatre. But almost everything else he adds to it just serves to distract from it.
Blasius's mostly heavy-handed direction doesn't help. The piece lumbers along instead of flies like the gossamer trifle it cries out to be. Two long strobe-lit set pieces (depicting some intense but funny sexual activity) particularly slow things down.
Brian Gillespie, as Larry, is a fun and likable presence anchoring the play nicely; Grant James Varjas, as Steve, sometimes comes across as too serious, though he displays nice chemistry with Gillespie. Thomas Flannery, Jr., gets some of the parody right as "Butt Boy" but he never seems particularly sexy. DeVon Jackson has the hardest role, playing Matthew, who is literally three some of the time but some kind of floating symbol much of the rest of the time. Margo Singaliese is hilarious as Steve's talkative mother, a grocery store cashier, and others—but good as she is, I never thought any of her characters were actually essential to the story Mercurio is telling here.
No, Two Spoons really is a play about two men sorting out their feelings, and everything else that the playwright and director have placed around that tale is just so much extra baggage. Larry and Steve's adventure in Philly and its aftermath feels like more than enough fodder for a fun evening of theatre, and I wish that Two Spoons focused more squarely on that story.