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Off-Off-Broadway Review

Tearoom Tango

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Douglas Holtz's 80-minute play is structured as a series of monologues. Six men, all middle-aged or older except for one, cruising a public bathroom in a park in an unnamed American city share with us their reasons for being there and how they feel about being gay. Though much of what they say rings true, it doesn't seem contemporary: The attitudes of these men feel as if they belong to an earlier, more virulently anti-gay America.

Perhaps that's the point: Only men who are this unhappy and maladjusted would be likely to frequent such a place. In any event, the play gradually spins out of control as Holtz keeps upping the ante to keep the monologues interesting. The ending in particular feels forced and entirely too melodramatic. And why restrict the play to six characters? Don't most men cruising for public sex want to get it off and then get out? It doesn't seem believable that these six guys would hang around for as long as they do.

The acting is variable, though Holtz acquits himself decently as the Slut, and Sean Langenecker brings a vibrant intensity to the Kid. As monologues are spoken down center, we see a backdrop of cruising and simulated sexual activity. All well and good, but all that simulation makes Holtz's one display of nudity, done while using a toilet, fake and gratuitous. It pushes too much, as does the play.

Presented by Mercury Players Theatre as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam St., NYC. Aug. 2128. Remaining performances: Tue., Aug. 25, 3:45 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 27, 9:45 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 28, 2 p.m. (866) 468-7619 or www.fringenyc.org.

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