Angel's Balcony: Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

Local Arts Reviews

Exhibitionism


Angel's Balcony:

Rhythm Is Gonna Get You

Dougherty Arts Center,

through May 27

Running Time: 1 hr, 45 min.

Playwright Blake Yelavich opens his comedy Angel's Balcony, set mainly on a Texas beach, with the first (of several) bared male chests, and if you're patient, you can see a bared male something else. Seven thirtysomethings (although they seem younger) have come to forget their troubles, to party, party, party! And Eddie proves it by bringing Gloria Estefan's "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" in his boombox.

But as the other characters make their way onstage, we see that it's hard for them to get out of their dark worlds. There are: Dena and Brett, the couple that's always fighting; Angie, the recluse from whom the play takes its name; Courtney, the girl described by Angie as "the painting no one would paint, a movie star"; and the three gay male characters -- what I'll call the family portion of the evening.

Yelavich's script is peppered with colorful dialogue and witty banter. Like a gossip circle, each character is as much described by what they do as the sometimes -- correction: often -- crass descriptions other characters offer. For instance, Angie is described as having a "square ass" and "not being the brightest peg in the Lite Brite set," and Dina wants to be The Love Boat's "Captain Stubing's daughter Julie" and "Mrs. Brady." But Gabriel, a New Orleans homosexual who arrives at the end of the first act -- decked in a fur-lined coat and a five-piece luggage set -- wins the funniest-line competition hands down (and I don't mean in a limp-wristed way): talking about frat boys who cross Queen Anne and find themselves at the wrong end of Bourbon Street (the Big Easy's gay district); being confused by Wheel of Fortune puzzles (seeing one full of Fs and Os and only coming up with "Byzantine Empire" as a solution, though it should probably have more Fs or Os); and describing Natalie Merchant as having the voice of 1,000 screaming kittens. Thanks to Doug Taylor's direction, it all works in an MTV Real World/Spring Break kind of way. Mostly.

Juxtaposed with the beach-house scenes are scenes involving Dina's professor (who owns one of the beach houses), Courtney's ex (caught with a prostitute between two pillows and a hard place), and a bartender named Zane (who I imagine practices stand-up in his closet at night when everyone else has gone to bed), all played by Michael Thornton. Though the scenes shed more light on the world that is Angel's Balcony, the overlapping of key phrases ("Is this all there is?" "I just want to live ..." "What a mess.") between the beach-house characters and the others becomes distracting as their frequency increases. Toward the end of the show, these scenes left me with more unanswered questions than solutions.

The acting, overall, is strong. Lara Toner's Angie is easy to laugh at without feeling too bad for the girl -- even if she is very "Tori Amos." Bryan Kent's Brett oozes with so much male ego and testosterone, it's a snap-snap to dislike him. Caroline St. Denis' Courtney is the misunderstood pretty girl to a T -- not that I've ever known any of those, mind you.

On the whole, Angel's Balcony is fun. Yelavich's play -- funny ha-ha and funny sober -- is a seek-and-find of pop-culture references, using Friends, General Foods International Coffees, and Judge Judy. The rhythm will get you.

A good time was had by all.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Angel's Balcony, Naughty Austin, Blake Yelavich, Lara Toner, Bryan Kent, Caroline St. Denis, Michael Thornton

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