Up For Anything
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
October 14, 2009
Uncommon side effects include:
An erection that won't go away: As with any ED tablet, in the rare event of an erection lasting more than 4 hours, seek immediate medical help to avoid long-term injury.
- from the CIALIS website
Meet Walter Dabney. This morning he took a pill (not CIALIS, but a fictional sibling drug) and now his erection won't go away. And his wife, Vera, is due home within the hour. And her parents are coming to lunch. And his girlfriend, Annie—he took the pill thinking it would make their a.m. tryst move more quickly—is still here.
Such is the premise of Marc Spitz's hilarious new play Up for Anything. Uniting the universal joy of schadenfreude with the latest in embarrassing medical technology side effects, Spitz gives us a wondrously contemporary bedroom farce. It is written with the consummate craftsmanship that Spitz's fans already know about (his earlier plays, many of them sex comedies of somewhat similar stripe, include I Wanna Be Adored and Shyness Is Nice) and presented here, under Carlo Vogel's fast-paced direction, with real appreciation for the form. The cast of twelve, including several long-time Spitz collaborators as well as several downtown/indie theater stars working with Spitz for the first time, is terrific.
Spitz understands that a hallmark of farce is naturalism: everybody in his play seems completely real, as opposed to a caricature, with one important twist: not one of them seems capable of regarding the world beyond the tip of his or her own nose. These self-involved creatures—none of them fundamentally a bad person—are simply unable to help one another. Certainly no one has anything useful to offer poor Walter, with the possible exception of Annie, who does suggest right off the bat that Walter may need some medical attention:
ANNIE: Well. In these commercials—they warn that if an erection lasts longer than four hours, you should call your doctor.
WALTER: They have to say that. That never happens. They say it because it probably happened like once. After thousands of clinical trials. Years of clinical trials. It's a legal thing. They say it really fast because it never happens. It never happens.
As you can see, Walter pooh-poohs the idea of taking himself and his still-tumescent organ to an emergency room. And so the game, as they say, is afoot!
Spitz manages to bring not only Walter's wife and in-laws into the apartment with Walter and his erection, but also his building's Russian super (and the super's dim-witted, barely-English-speaking assistant), Vera's piano instructor, a daffy British architect named Ruggles, a cop, a delivery boy from the local Moroccan restaurant, and Walter's ambisexual agent, who has just escaped from a potentially embarrassing situation of his own involving a policeman and the location of the Sheridan Square subway stop.
Hilarity really does ensue, so quickly and heartily that sometimes my laughter made it hard for me to hear the next lines being said on stage. In an ensemble where everyone is really pulling their weight, some of the standouts include Jonathan Lisecki as the oversexed agent Peter, Arthur Aulisi as clueless but endlessly attentive Ruggles, and Camille Habacker and Alyssa Simon as the two women in Walter's life (respectively, mistress Annie and wife Vera). Jonathan Marc Sherman anchors the play as hapless Walter, abetted by a never-seen but entirely effective apparatus buried somewhere inside his shorts.
One more thing: notwithstanding its subject matter, Up for Anything is never vulgar or coarse, which is another reason I liked it so well. It's probably not going to make much sense to anyone under 12 or so, but it's suitable entertainment for anyone else. And it may make some of the gentlemen in the audience think twice about taking any kind of pharmaceuticals before lovemaking.