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Reviews

Bald Diva!

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Presented by Theatre Askew at the Red Room, 85 East Fourth St., NYC, Feb. 5-March 6.

In "Bald Diva!," playwright David Koteles takes Ionesco's "The Bald Soprano" and serves it up as a witty and incisive indictment of a segment of the gay community that revels in its homogeneous tastes.

Like "Soprano," "Diva!" transports its audience to the middle-class home of a married couple, here partners Tim and Jim Jackson-Smith. Erik Flatmo's colorfully painted cartoon interior scenic design perfectly sets the tone for the couple's world. As Tim Cusack's gloriously over-the-top Tim recites a litany of the minutiae of their lives, Jerry Marsini, as Jim, takes attitude to its highest comic level, flipping through an unseen television's channels with utter disdain and ennui.

With the arrival of gym boys Craig and Greg Tyler-Martin (imbued with appropriate vapidity by Jeffrey James Keyes and Terrence Michael McCrossan), the emptiness of these men's lives and minds becomes clear. When the four try to have a conversation, Koteles provides the performers with only "uhs" and "wells," which the actors serve up awkwardly to hilarious results.

When the Fire Chief shows up at the apartment in search of work, his vivid striptease and riotous monologue recounting how he knows that Tom Cruise is gay lead one to believe that his world is as shallow as the other characters. However, he has eyes for the Jackson-Smiths' nelly downtown houseboy, Mary, and this throws the world of "Diva!" into disarray. (Nathan Blew brings a muscular, gleaming smiled irony to his portrayal of the Chief. Matthew Pritchard provides the right comedic tang to the play as Mary.)

Daniel Urlie adds to the merriment of "Diva!" through his costume designs, which are gleeful parodies of Italian chic and gym chic. Director Jason Jacobs (who co-conceived "Diva!" with dramaturg Jamee Freedus) keeps the evening bouncing along and guides the performers well through the play's final, ironic moments.

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