A Night in Vegas
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
June 2, 2010
A Night in Vegas is a low-impact program of five short plays, all of which take place in the same cheesy Las Vegas hotel room and all of which revolve around the sexual/romantic lives of gay men. It's sort of like Neil Simon's Plaza Suite except the hotel isn't nearly as nice and the characters aren't upper-middle-class heterosexual New York types...and, alas, the writing isn't quite as polished or professional. Ditto the production.
Which is a shame, because the ideas of all five of these plays are quite good. A Dream Vacation, a two-parter which opens the show, is a would-be door-slamming farce involving Ted and Steven, two squabbling lovers; Toby, a male escort; Bobby, a hotel bellboy who used to work for the same escort agency as Toby; another bellboy who doubles as a security guard, and the fellow down the hall who ordered Toby—the catalyst, as it were, for the crazy life-and-death shenanigans that ensue when Toby, unable to find his john, shows up uninvited in Ted and Steven's room. This piece should garner wall-to-wall laughter, but the pacing, at least at the performance reviewed, was slack and as a result many of the jokes didn't land.
Rick and Andrew, the best of these playlets, is about two not-so-young men who have met in a bar and decided, impetuously and without much thought about expectations, to spend the night together. Andrew is attracted to Rick and ready to get to bed. Rick is reticent, for reasons that gradually become clear. I liked the idea of exploring a would-be one-night-stand between a pair of mature, experienced men. (I also liked that this play, the most romantic one in A Night in Vegas, refrains smartly from the full frontal nudity that the advertisements boldly promise; the first and last items on the bill deliver this, perhaps to their detriment.)
Did You Hear That? sets up an intriguing situation: Marc, who is deaf, and Tom, who is blind, are left alone in the room together while their respective lovers go off to get the luggage. I loved the possibilities of this situation, which are compounded by the fact that Marc and Tom can't stand one another. But the place where playwright/director Joe Marshall decides to the take this segment proves both unpleasant and unenlightening.
The next vignette, Helen and Jack, is about the parents of a young man who is about to marry his lover. Helen is very uncomfortable with this, while Jack is supportive of his son, though not so much of his wife. The dynamics of the relationships exposed here are intriguing, but Marshall doesn't plumb them as deeply as he could; the animosity between the husband and wife becomes the main issue in the play instead.
The final piece, Twenty-Something, echoes the first in its farcical possibilities, but here the extreme behavior of several disparate characters is played straight (so to speak) rather than for laughs. Again, a pair of lovers and a bellboy are involved, this time with a middle-aged man and his much younger pickup, a fellow named Josh who has apparently had a whirlwind of a weekend here in Vegas—except that he can't remember any of it. It's a fairly harsh situation that's tempered by a kind-of sweet ending.
Not one of the five plays felt fully satisfying to me, either because the writing didn't quite gel or, more frequently, because the staging seemed thrown-together and the actors seemed miscast. Many of the actors involved are younger than the roles they're supposed to play (by a decade or more)—for example, the actors playing the lovers in A Dream Vacation seem to be in their 20s, not their 30s, and as a result I didn't believe the length of time their characters were supposed to have been together. Drew Stark and Jason Romas as Rick and Andrew are the exceptions here, and their piece is thus the most effective.
Also, I wondered if Casper De la Torre's low-rent motel room set needed to be quite as cheap-looking as it is. The doorframes in particular seemed quite rickety and on the verge of falling over when slammed.
A Night in Vegas is not unentertaining, and the fifth play, in particular, provides some of the eye candy that the posters and program promise. But I wished it would have gone deeper into the potentially interesting stories it tells; and I wished that the maturity (chronological, emotional, and otherwise) of its characters had been better realized in this production.