nytheatre.com review by Nicholas Linnehan
July 20, 2010
Man Boobs, written by J. Julian Christopher, explores such important issues as self-esteem, self-image, and self-perception. In this new play, Christopher draws his audience in with wit, bawdiness, and unnerving truth. I was thoroughly engaged in this dark comedy about one man's journey to self-acceptance.
The play opens with Spence and Marty, a gay couple caught in the thralls of passion. After coming home from a night on the town, it is obvious that Marty wants nothing more than to have sex with his new lover Spence. Marty tries various tactics to get Spence into bed, but Spence keeps on stalling. We eventually discover the real reason behind Spence's reluctance is his poor image of himself.
At first, I was caught off guard by the blatant sexual language that Christopher uses to introduce us to his characters. I was afraid that I was in for a mere evening of gay bluntness and sexual innuendo, but I was pleasantly surprised when the play started to delve deeper into the psyches of the men. Spence, played by Jeffrey Marx, starts off with verbal charm, but then unravels and we see his insecurity due to his obesity. Marx plays his character with unbridled honesty and sincerity. Although Marx could stand to slow down his line delivery, his performance is nonetheless captivating. He captures Spence's essence brilliantly and knows how to deliver on stage. Equally impressive is Robert Valin as Marty. Valin can both play the horny macho man-turned-savage as well as the guy longing for meaningful relationships. This is a credit to his talent. Both actors drew me in from the beginning and left me in such a state of identification that I was lost in thought for a good hour following the show.
What makes this play so refreshing is that it portrays ordinary men with extraordinary desires. All too often, we are subjected to gay plays and shows, such as Queer as Folk, that paint their stories with men that are physically attractive and stereotypically beautiful. But Christopher gives us real men that we can relate to. This makes these characters even more beautiful and appealing to watch.
Director Web Begole understands his story well and the important issues it raises. His direction is simple, allowing the actors to inhabit their characters and flesh out their roles. I was moved to tears at different points in the story, which is a credit to the director and his cast. It may sound cliche, but I laughed and cried at this show.
Man Boobs is a provocative play that entertains and makes its audience feel. No doubt Christopher will continue to do the same in his future works.