Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Submission ***

Jeff Talbott's new play at MCC, for which he became the first recipient of the Laurents/Hatcher Award, asks us to accept the premise that a privileged white gay male could write a stirring play about an alcoholic black woman and her ne'er-do-well son. In order to improve his chances of getting the play produced, playwright Danny Larsen (Jonathan Groff of "Spring Awakening" and "Glee") submits it under an African-sounding woman's name. When the Humana Festival decides to produce it, he hires Emilie (Rutina Wesley of "True Blood"), a black actress, to impersonate the fictitious playwright. His uptight lover Pete (Eddie Kaye Thomas) and his best friend Trevor (Will Rogers) think this deception will end badly, but reluctantly support him. There is much snappy dialogue and a few hilarious scenes, including a cellphone conversation between Trevor and Emilie, who have become an item. The relationships between Danny and Pete and Danny and Trevor seemed underwritten. The play darkens when Danny reveals his latent racism to Emilie and she, in turn, shows a touch of homophobia. For me, the play became repetitive and ran out of gas several minutes before it ended. Nevertheless, at its best, it was quite entertaining. The cast was strong, except that I found Groff too relentlessly energetic. Anita Yavich designed the costumes and Walter Bobbie directed. A clever set by David Zinn made me want to visit my nearest Starbuck's on the way home. Zinn must be the busiest man in town: his sets and costumes can also be seen in "The Select" and "Completeness." Running time: 95 minutes without intermission.

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