Just Men

Successful TV writer Brian McAllister (Woody Brown) is considering living with his lover, Dan (Philip Earl Johnson), a construction contractor. Brian's father, Jack (Robert Mandan), a bigot and homophobe, is coming to town, and Dan wants Brian to break the news to him.

With:
Cast: Woody Brown (Brian McAllister), Philip Earl Johnson (Dan), Robert Mandan (Jack McAllister), Alex Datcher (Carmen). Good intentions run high in the gay-themed morality play "Just Men," but it's preaching to the converted, and its redundancies and sitcom humor hammer so relentlessly that first-time playwright Gary Goldstein does not leave room for surprise or subtleties.

Successful TV writer Brian McAllister (Woody Brown) is considering living with his lover, Dan (Philip Earl Johnson), a construction contractor. Brian’s father, Jack (Robert Mandan), a bigot and homophobe, is coming to town, and Dan wants Brian to break the news to him.

Dad doesn’t know Brian is gay. How to tell him?

Before he finds a way to break the news, Brian has his friend Carmen (Alex Datcher) pretend she’s his lover to stop dad’s probing questions. Brian conveniently does not tell Carmen her new name or occupation, so the playwright can create more laughs. Because she’s black, dad’s livid. The charade drinks at dad’s never-ending river of prejudice.

Goldstein has created in the father a paper tiger who stands for all things narrow-minded. Mandan, best known as Chester on “Soap,” plays him over-the-top, telegraphing his displeasure at everything. Late in the play, dad reveals some truths about his difficult marriages, but it doesn’t make him a real person.

On the positive side, Woody Brown’s Brian is a much richer character, someone who truly suggests how difficult it was growing up, wanting to be like almost everyone else but feeling different. Brown offers sensitivity and angst beneath the humor.

Johnson serves Dan’s limited purposes well — to be cute and loving yet manly. Datcher plays the sexy Carmen with panache, lending great comic timing to her scene as Brian’s lover.

Much credit needs to go to director Matt Almos, who has taken an essentially talky play — which keeps returning to dad urging Brian to get a girlfriend — and created stage movement and a fast pace, serving the playwright’s focus on one-line zingers.

Tom Meleck’s richly detailed set design suggests a well-to-do writer. Equal craft comes from costume designer Tim Neuman, sound designer Leonora Schildkraut and light designer James Schipper.

Just Men

Production: Just Men (Stella Adler Theatre, Hollywood; 99 seats; $ 20 top) Moon and Stars Prods. in association with the Stella Adler Theatre presents a comedy in two acts by Gary Goldstein, produced by Goldstein and Jack Rodgers, directed by Matt Almos.

Crew: Set design, Tom Meleck; light design, James Schipper; sound design, Leonora Schildkraut; costume design, Tim Neuman. Opened Feb. 22, 1996; reviewed Feb. 23; closes March 31. Running time, 1 hour, 45 min.

With: Cast: Woody Brown (Brian McAllister), Philip Earl Johnson (Dan), Robert Mandan (Jack McAllister), Alex Datcher (Carmen). Good intentions run high in the gay-themed morality play "Just Men," but it's preaching to the converted, and its redundancies and sitcom humor hammer so relentlessly that first-time playwright Gary Goldstein does not leave room for surprise or subtleties.

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