Wünderkind director David Galligan has done it once again, helming a sparkling world premiere presentation of Tim Turner’s newest play Out Late, now efficiently helping to introduce the Macha Theatre, the impressively remodeled and expanded former Globe Playhouse.
Turner’s fascinating journey explores the seldomly tackled theme of intergenerational love within the image-obsessed world of gay males, his story made more unique because the younger lover is portrayed as the hunter and the old duffer is the one finding himself an object of the comely lad’s affections. And you thought Harry Potter was a fantasy!
Successful, blithely married sixty-something urologist Charles Barrett (Nic d’Avirro) is in return attracted almost immediately to his charismatic cable-host pursuer Evan (played at the performance I attended by Jared Lehr) after a chance meeting over a — ready? — testicular examination (honest).
This brief butt-baring moment in the exam room, which offered an early-on titillating peek of things to come for all those older gents in the eagerly appreciative Macha audience last Sunday afternoon (then again I, too, in all honesty am more than willing to be a champion for this production’s gratuitous nudity), eventually changes the stuffy ol’ doc’s whole life when he gives in to temptation, entering into a six-month affair with Evan before finally coming Out Late to his shocked daughter and loyal — through loveless — spouse of nearly four decades.
Turner’s script is extremely interesting and often highly effective drama, beginning most scenes between the characters behind standard fourth-wall staging, then bravely transforming them halfway through into monologues, bringing one of his actors forward out of the action to convey his or her inner thoughts directly to the audience.
One particular scene, as Charles with great difficulty reveals his new lifestyle to both his wife and daughter at two different times, Turner (with Sir Galligan’s inimitable assistance, one might suspect) makes all the more fascinating—and challenging for the actors—by placing both actresses on either side of him, also looking forward and delivering some of their shocked lines and reactions to his confession simultaneously.
If this first production of the surely tweak-able Out Late begins a tad exposition-heavy, it is easily correctable, as Turner’s dialogue takes on a quiet momentum as it gives way about halfway through the script to a powerful simplicity.
As played here, the women of the Barrett household are the strongest, with Megan Maureen McDonough outstanding as the sexless lawyer daughter who may or may not have at one time worn Birkenstocks and, along with her college roommate, once gave new meaning to the term feminist movement.
Judy Jean Burns as Eileen, the long suffering delusional wife who hides her unhappiness behind the walls of her lovely home and with the aid of constant martini afternoons, proves herself again to be on the rise as the west coast’s resident Kathleen Chalfant. Burns’ remarkably touching performance, particularly in her last poignant, heartfelt monologue, is simply a tour de force, ironically only second in the sweepstakes for the finest work seen onstage this year with her own performance in the title role of Kimberly Akimbo at the Victory. This lady is simply a Los Angeles theatre treasure—if only we had more audience members around to appreciate us all.
Somewhat less winning to me were the two actors playing the lovers in Out Late, both somehow seeming to miss the most essential ingredient in this drama: a believable relationship between them. Lehr, appearing as Evan for the first time (in for Kasey Mahaffy), can surely be forgiven if his performance had not yet settled into a comfort zone where he could eventually delve deeper into his character’s feelings for his older costar, and maybe d’Avirro, too, needed a bit more time to effectively transfer his onstage affections from one actor to another.
As it was at the performance I attended, whenever Lehr and d’Avirro were left alone together onstage, there was a palpable sense of discomfort—and I mean after they’ve been tossing about together a few months—and not just in the initial “Turn left and cough” session when that would be appropriate. One could almost fathom one of them saying, “So, whaddya think of them Lakers, buddy?” to break the tension.
It’s clear when d’Avirro shares with the audience one of his many inner monologues, particularly one brilliantly capturing very real tearful sorrow at the death of Charles’ mother, that this actor has all the right stuff to shoulder and communicate his character’s conflicted emotions; he just, as yet, doesn’t seem to be able to share as equally with Lehr. Hopefully, it’s the newness of a new actor with whom to work as his youthful paramour, not discomfort with Turner’s subject matter.
Then again, obviously d’Avirro is a magnificent actor and I, for once (I’d like to think), could totally not be capable of objectivity here. Who knows? Maybe I’m just blinded because Galligan and Out Late’s casting director Michael Donovan didn’t think to call me in to read for the plum role of Charles. Although, as far as I know, my critical honestly has never come into question over my years as an actor who moonlights as a reviewer, nobody ever screens theatre critics for integrity, now do they?
Out Late plays through Aug. 5 at the Macha Theatre, 1107 N. Kings Rd., West Hollywood; for tickets, call 323.960.7829.