Despite the title, “The Older Man You Always Wanted” concerns not a May-December romance but a man who desperately needs to love the (slightly) older man he’s become. If that sounds like a recipe for a bland, indulgent play, it is. A pleasing performance from Jim J. Bullock (“Too Close for Comfort”) can’t rescue this shapeless piece of writing from tedium, and it comes off as a star vehicle in search of a play.
Allen Sullivan (Bullock) confesses from the start that he’s a recovering anger-holic, and much of the overlong play is devoted to outlining all the reasons he has to be angry. First on the list: He’s in his forties, and he’s been lying about his age for years.
Playwright Crowe seems to have recognized that he couldn’t let his character whine too long about his age alone (“That would be vain,” Allen tells us, rightly). So we’re plunged into the narrative of Allen’s life in order to justify the need for 12-step preachiness. His much-adored older brother (Greg Zarian) died in a freak accident while the younger Allen survived. Guilt and anger. His emotionally distant, homophobic father (J. Robert Prete) treated him as “the ugly duckling.” Anger. He met the perfect man (Tony Rado) — Italian, even — but AIDS took him away. Happiness, then anger.
Given that the play is comprised of one generic — and self-pitying — scene after another, it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job with this lead role than Jim J. Bullock. He has a very likable presence and an easygoing rapport with the audience. And the structure of the material — part standup, part confessional monologue, part traditional memory play — suits his talents well. But there just isn’t a character here, and there certainly isn’t a compelling story. The only elements that work are the campy asides.
The ensemble of supporting players portray all the other characters, and while they’re clearly a talented lot, director Carl Peoples has cast many of the actors well in one role and horribly in another. Spencer Beglarian provides the most glaring example. He’s hysterically funny in bit parts as an enthusiastic priest and a not-so-enthusiastic trick, but as Allen’s best friend and potential lover Todd, Beglarian is so contrived that the pat happy ending actually feels perverse.