Frank Delessio, Brandon Smalls, Keith McDermott, and Robert Gomes in Chuck Blasius' “I Could Say More.” | AHRON FOSTER
If Terrence McNally (“Love! Valour! Compassion!”) and Mart Crowley (“The Boys in the Band”) collaborated on a play and then Christopher Durang (“Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike”) was brought in to doctor the dialogue, the result might be something like “I Could Say More,” the glorious mess of a bitchy-gays-at-a-beach-house drama now playing at the Hudson Guild Theatre.
Yet the driving force behind this elaborate endeavor is no big-name dramatist. It’s the talented, slightly insane Chuck Blasius, who wrote and directed. He also plays Carl, the mother-hen host of the summer rental.
By a few minutes into the new drama, set mainly on a July weekend presumably in the Hamptons, the house fills with an unlikely assortment of rowdy, needy guests with boatloads of festering emotional baggage, and it’s clear Carl has bitten off more than he can chew. The same might be said for Blasius, as well.
When a motley bunch of guests invade a summer beach house, sparks fly
The triple-duty dynamo has assembled a skilled ensemble for this post-gay dark comedy of manners (or lack thereof). And it’s a good thing, too, because the actors must not only convey authenticity but also add a sheen of likability to these sorry wretches. Not all of them succeed.
Blasius is amply convincing as the tightly wound, finger-wagging Carl, recently married to longtime partner Drew (Brett Douglas), with a mixed-race teen son named Jason (Brandon Smalls). In a surprise move, Drew’s brother Phil (an excellent Grant James Varjas) has brought not his own husband but some boy-toy (Frank Delessio), whose idea of classical music is the Beatles. References to HIV cocktails and protected sex sail way over his head.
Other guests include the yoga-practicing, pill-dependent Skip (the marvelous Keith McDermott, who played opposite Richard Burton in the original Broadway production of “Equus”), who represents the wise yet bitter elder gay generation. His serene wife Rakel (Monique Vukovic), who sees nothing wrong with being married to a gay man, wears a scarf to cover her baldness caused by cancer chemotherapy.
The moody Lila (Kate Hodge, at moments recalling a young Sigourney Weaver) has brought her tattooed, married lug of a boyfriend (Robert Gomes), who has trouble fitting in with a house full of gay men. Complaints, cattiness, and snappy comebacks fill the salty seaside air.
At its best, the keenly observed “I Could Say More” offers insights into the volatility of interpersonal dynamics, exposing the baser aspects of human nature. Many themes underscore the post-gay mood –– HIV ignorance, surviving the AIDS crisis, open relationships, morphing queer culture, drug and alcohol abuse, the limitations of marriage, and suicide.
Much of the cast, it should be noted, is drawn from “Accidentally, Like a Martyr,” a play by Varjas from a couple of years back that dealt with similar gay cultural themes.
The 53-year-old Carl barks rules about smoking only outside and keeping the screen door closed, and later admits to a mad crush on Phil. That’s right, his brother-in-law. After clashing with Drew over their inheritance, Phil and his boy-toy go at it with abandon in the shed for all to hear. Aside from offering a few fancy “snicky-snack things” that no one wants to munch on, Carl neglects to provide his guests with an actual dinner.
One running joke is the constant battle for wresting control of the digital music system, the selfishness of the competition more disturbing than funny. “No show tunes!” the guests command. House rules are regularly broken; copious consumption of alcohol fuels the brutality.
Yet there are glimmers of tenderness as well. The quiet scene where Rakel opens up about her breast surgery to young Jason is especially affecting. Jason, by the way, is the only character who has his act together.
Unfortunately, the ambitious Blasius loses his grip on the heady material. Logic and believability are often trampled by the mayhem. Time and the evening’s events lurch forward without clear explanation. Insults are hurled for no apparent reason. Lines meant to be clever or edgy don’t always land.
“Quit, or I’m gonna have to fuck you,” Drew says abruptly after the boy-toy gives him a compliment.
Much has been written about the “invisible” warrior generation of gay men who watched half their friends die from AIDS and are now well into midlife, aged out of the clubs and bars, battling loneliness and depression. This is one of the few plays I have seen that dares to broach this complex subject.
Perhaps the most confusing aspect of the overstuffed “I Could Say More” is the title, borrowed from a line of dialogue. Over the course of more than two hours, the alternately absorbing and tedious piece says quite a great deal. If only Blasius figured out a way to say it more eloquently.
I COULD SAY MORE | Other Side Productions | Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 W. 26th St. | Through Feb. 1: Thu.-Sat. at 8 p.m.; Sun. at 7 p.m. | $18 at othersideproductions.orgor 212-352-3101