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LA Theater Review

Cell Phone Funeral

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Cell Phone Funeral

It's a tossup as to whether this production succeeds most as an affront to gay theatre or as audience abuse. It opens with Zackery (Gabriel Loup, mistaking eye-rolling for performing) and Barry (Jason Frazier, doing his best), two silly queens -- and the term silly queens actually dignifies them -- on the phone, discussing the unfortunate demise of Patrick, a stranger, beneath the wheels of Zack's Mercedes SUV. Barry's response? "Was he cute?" It pushes the black-comedy envelope, but that's how one finds where the boundaries are, after all.

The next scene, however, has Patrick's mother (a disconnected performance by Trudy Forbes) learning of his death in a reasonably straightforward fashion, at which points all bets are off, as this gear-change shifts the first scene from grim laughs to grotesquerie. It only gets worse from there. The structure itself would be insurmountable, as the scenes lack any integrity and are separated by lengthy, impetus-deadening blackouts, but the direction of Julie Nunis is incapable of wresting anything even remotely serviceable from the black hole of John Patrick Trapper's appalling script. Supposed laughs range from Patrick's straight brother dealing with the deceased's sexual paraphernalia (whoa!), a priest at the wake immediately offering up that he and Patrick were intimate (what?), and the coffined corpse being deprived of his designer jacket because Zack, when those two appear at the funeral home to see if the flattened remains are fetching, feels it's a waste of expensive clothing (that one leaves us speechless).

From within this travesty, Aaron Barrera achieves something that resembles emotional truth in his transvestite role of Chardonnay, no small feat while wearing knee-high silver platform boots and architectural hair. Alas, the lass must leave, and the evening grinds inexorably on, each actor in turn defeated by this sham of a satire. The role of Patrick, by the way, is played by a standee and a voiceover (Miles Nevin) and suffers by comparison not a whit for lack of a third dimension. When it was over, I muttered to my date as we dashed out the door, "I'm so embarrassed to be gay." "Oh darling," my companion cooed, "I'm embarrassed for you!"

Presented by Wide Stance Productions at the Actor's Playpen,

1514 N. Gardner St., L.A.

Fri.-Sat. 8 & 10 p.m. Apr. 11-May 17.

www.plays411.com/cellphone.

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