Where Men Are Empty Overcoats | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Where Men Are Empty Overcoats 

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WHERE MEN ARE EMPTY OVERCOATS, 6 Players Productions, at the Theatre Building. Likable but lame, Eric Pfeffinger's forced comedy, produced by a troupe from Bloomington, Indiana, depicts with thudding predictability a gay man's coming out to his repressed Cincinnati family. Right from the clumsy start this stiff script lurches into sitcom mode, each character defined by two quirks only (dad is a right-wing foot fetishist, while the constantly embarrassed mom is a secret sybarite). When young George announces at Thanksgiving that he's gay, the parents go into biblical denial, sending the hapless lad to a "Gay No More" clinic run by--who else?--a closet case. George's African-American roommate-lover, brought home for shock effect, turns out to be a promiscuous user. Finally, father and son are brought together when dad shares an endless, pointless anecdote.

The one fresh breeze in these doldrums is the bratty narrator, Agatha, George's elaborately neglected kid sister. Anneliese Van Arsdale's sassy performance sporadically sparks Jeff Skora's plodding, stilted staging, a textbook example of awkward blocking and strained declamation. With lines this obvious, the last thing actors should do is take their time--or ours. Kirk Walter brings intermittent charm to George, but his constant mugging becomes a drag. No doubt, this gay-friendly script means well, and the playwright cares about his characters. But the play longs to dwindle to television size: the pesky third dimension of theater just gets in the way.

--Lawrence Bommer

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