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Adam and Steve

Gay Gotham farce written, directed and starring veteran actor Craig Chester delivers plenty of well-timed slapstick, a brace of oddball zanies and a couple of show-stopper musical numbers. Material is uneven, but rhythm and pacing keep action moving smartly. Snappy romantic comedy sports enough name players to rep potential crossover appeal.

With:
With: Craig Chester, Malcolm Gets, Parker Posey, Chris Kattan, Melinda Dillon, Julie Hagerty, Sally Kirkland.

Gay Gotham farce written, directed and starring veteran actor Craig Chester (“Swoon,” “Kiss Me Guido”) delivers plenty of well-timed slapstick, a brace of oddball zanies and a couple of show-stopper musical numbers. Material is uneven, but rhythm and pacing keep action moving smartly. Snappy romantic comedy sports enough name players, including SNL alumnus Chris Kattan and, on the distaff side, Parker Posey, Julie Hagerty and Melinda Dillon, to rep potential crossover appeal, though broad humor may nettle older urban auds and unabashedly gay frame of reference could limit heartland play.

In 1987, high school sprig Adam (Chester), in full white-face, black goth regalia, along with gal pal Rhonda (a startlingly obese, fat-suited Parker Posey), wander into the Danceteria. Adam’s eye is caught by the fully-displayed attributes of glittery glam dancer Steve (Malcolm Gets of “Caroline in the City”), who promptly turns the substance virgin onto drugs.

Several “bumps” later, the two go back to Adam’s place for torrid sex. But a combination of coke cut with baby laxative and a boastful flexing of Steve’s impressive gluteus maximus mortifyingly nips any romance in the bud, and creates in Steve a rare traumatic memory of sexual embarrassment.

Seventeen years later, the now mutually unrecognizable men meet in a psycho ward: A hysterical Adam has been sent here for medical help for his accidentally stabbed dog, which is duly patched up by psychiatrist-in-residence Steve.

The two are a study in contrasts. Steve is successful, physically fit and a phobic slut, his frequent encounters mainly conducted in showers where he can neurotically scrub down partners while screwing them. Adam, a timid, introverted underachiever, works in Central Park as a birdwatcher tour guide when not attending AA meetings chaired by manic ex-addict Sally Kirkland.

The two men fall in love and all is hunky-dory — until Steve realizes that Adam previously witnessed the most humiliating moment of his life.

Helmer Chester deploys a wide range of comic tones and types. Adam’s family, headed by a beaming Julie Hagerty, takes accident-proneness to new heights. Steve’s clan, on the other hand, is a nightmare of normalcy, Melinda Dillon’s earnest attempts to fit her son’s Jewish lover within the confines of her Midwest Christian experience producing sprightly conversational ice-breakers along the lines of “Jesus was a Jew.”

But comic kudos definitely belong to a now-svelte Posey as she delivers her failed stand-up comedy routine — consisting entirely of fat jokes — to a comatose nightclub audience of five.

Chester’s Adam, effortlessly able to slide from bathos to pathos and back again with none of the smarmy schmaltz of sitcom humanism, is a marvel of nuanced comic timing. Gets’ Steve, though quite adequate as the film’s much-fetishized sexual object of affection, creates less depth, coming off as too whitebread for his neurosis to afford more than just a single, great soapy visual gag.

Real surprise, however, are the excellent dance numbers. The first, everyone’s fantasy of Terpsichorean empowerment, features a showdown between the estranged lovers in the form of a cowboy line-dance, the hitherto two-left-footed Adam suddenly gifted with the ability to gracefully leap, somersault, whirl and slide with professional panache. The second, a choral offering sung in a bar, so touches everyone that even homophobic slur-casting neighbors are empathetically moved to tears.

Tech credits are pro.

Adam and Steve

Production: A Funnyboy production. Produced by Kirkland Tibbels, George Bendele. Executive producers, Kermit Johns, Michael Gallant. Co-Producer, Paul Sun. Directed, written by Craig Chester.

Crew: Camera (color, Super 16mm-to-35mm), Carl F. Bartels; editor, Phyllis K. Housen; music, Roddy Bottum; music supervisor, Michael Lloyd; production designer, Cecil Gentry; costume designer, Carol Cutshall; sound (Dolby Digital), Craig Clark; casting, Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Crowley, Kerry Barden. Reviewed at NewFest, New York, June 11, 2005. Running time: 99 MIN.

With: With: Craig Chester, Malcolm Gets, Parker Posey, Chris Kattan, Melinda Dillon, Julie Hagerty, Sally Kirkland.

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