There's little to add about Evening C of Showtime's Act One festival that hasn't already been lauded of the first two nights. Five more mean-streets shorts enjoy stellar casting and direction, but the writing lapses here hit harder than in previous nights.

There’s little to add about Evening C of Showtime’s Act One festival that hasn’t already been lauded of the first two nights. Five more mean-streets shorts enjoy stellar casting and direction, but the writing lapses here hit harder than in previous nights.

Craig Lucas — whose work includes “Prelude to a Kiss” and the movie “Longtime Companion”– pulls no punches in “The Dying Gaul,” an acerbic take on Hollywood. A two-man tour de force, the plot pits Robert (Steven Antin), a struggling gay writer, against Roger (Jerry Levine), a smarmy Disney exec.

Roger is ready to pay Robert $ 1 million for his script about two gay lovers in Paris, if the writer changes one of the lovers into a woman. It’s a story that’s been told before, but Lucas’ sharp style gives it an anger that bristles through the broad comic strokes.

Levine is delicious as the exec; best moment of the night is a call he takes from his wife. Antin as the writer is adequate in his path of reluctance, indignance and acceptance.

Director Harris Yulin gingerly weaves together the warring factions, finding moments for both players that give the piece some real heft.

At the other end of the comic spectrum, Dana Coen’s “Tinkle Time” brings the phrase “bathroom humor” to a new low.

Tired in its best moments, the piece misses its comic mark with a U.S. president’s visit to a public john in New York’s Port Authority.

Yael Pardess’ realistic re-creation of a grimy urinal is about the only thing worth watching in the piece, despite satisfactory star turns from Howard Hesseman as the prexy and Harry Shearer as an aide.

Bryan Goluboff’s “The Other Five Percent” serves up a stunning performance from Elias Koteas as an AIDS-infected homeless man who was once a high school baseball star, but offers little else in its gritty East Village setting.

Lynn Martin’s “Waltzing De Niro” explores fantasy/reality rifts through a woman (Vanessa Williams) who’s dreaming that her neighbor and lover is Robert De Niro. The play’s slow pacing and unclear point drag it down, but Scott Allan Campbell is terrific, effecting the voice, look and twitchy mannerisms of a De Niro from a mix of “King of Comedy” and “Night and the City.”

Edward Allan Baker’s “Rosemary With Ginger” deep-fries two sisters in a diner in Providence, R.I. Accents become almost unintelligible. Lucinda Jenney as Ginger and Susan Barnes as Rosemary seethe at each other with suitable vinegar but can’t bring to life a maudlin plot about Rosemary’s drinking problem and her child custody battle.

Producers Risa Bramon Garcia and Jerry Levine showed they could put together an inspired festival of one-acts.

Act One Evening C

(Met Theatre, Los Angeles; 99 seats; $ 17 top)


Showtime Networks Inc. presents the last in a series of evenings of one-act plays: "Waltzing De Niro," written by Lynn Martin, directed by Stephanie Shroyer; "The Dying Gaul," by Craig Lucas, directed by Harris Yulin; "Rosemary With Ginger," by Edward Allan Baker, directed by Paul McCrane; "Tinkle Time," by Dana Coen, directed by Griffin Dunne; "The Other Five Percent," by Bryan Goluboff, directed by Arliss Howard. Producers, Risa Bramon Garcia, Jerry Levine.


Sets, Yael Pardess; lighting, Ken Booth; costumes, Taylor Kincaid Cheek; sound, Peter Stenshoel, Charles Dayton; Opened June 18, 1994; reviewed June 24; runs through July 10. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.


Cast: Vanessa Williams, Jennifer Butt, Scott Allan Campbell, Jerry Levine, Steven Antin, Lucinda Jenney, Susan Barnes, James Avery, Luke Wilson, Christopher Curry, Reno Wilson, Howard Hesseman, Harry Shearer, Elias Koteas, Lisa Gerber, Ben Meyerson.
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