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ANADARKO

R E V I E W E D B Y

DAVID SHEWARD

David Patrick Kelly, a compact fireball of an actor, blazes through Tim Blake Nelson's metaphysical jailhouse rock show "Anadarko," presented by Manhattan Theater Company. His performance illuminates the murky corners of this shadowy and vague play. Set deep in the Sam Shepard country of the mythic Southwest, the show focuses on two drifters thrown together in a "No Exit" holding cell (realized with grim accuracy by one of Off-Broadway's top designers--Neil Patel).

It starts as a starkly realistic picture of prison brutality, with permanent inmate Kelly receiving a punishing beating by two guards (gripping fight direction by Rick Sordelet) while a cheery country tune blares on the radio. (The equally excellent sound design is by David Van Tieghem.) Then a clumsy car thief (Myk Watford) joins Kelly behind bars and a dreamlike drama on themes of imprisonment, violence, responsibility, and morality is set in motion.

Nelson's symbolism is a little muddy. I'm not clear how the mute American Indian (Lurch Pagan) in another cell figures in his scheme. Or what the inevitable fight-to-the-death between Kelly and Watford signifies. But stager Doug Hughes (who also directed Nelson's "The Grey Zone") effectively creates a closed, cramped, and dangerous world. The lead performances and those of the supporting roles (particularly J.R. Horne and Lanny Flaherty as redneck guards with philosophical proclivities) make this fantasy as real and gritty as Patel's stark set.

Presented by and at MCC Theatre, 120 W. 28th St., NYC, April 1-18.

THE COMING OUT PARTY

R E V I E W E D B Y

VICTOR GLUCK

Imagine an all-gay version of "Pygmalion" or "Gigi," set in West Hollywood in 1977-78, and you have only some idea of how much fun John Michael Caffey's adaptation of his novel "The Coming Out Party" turns out to be.

Directing a cast of eight, all of whom are in tune with the comedy's sense of the ridiculous, T.L. Reilly gets the most mileage possible out of the hilarious costumes by Vicki Dvorin, the amusing choreography of Rebecca Pusta and the witty settings by the playwright himself.

Calvin (Brian Semple)--on the way home from the annual Halloween drag ball with his longtime, live-in lover, Sidney--decides to get revenge on his long-ago lover and continuing nemesis, Bernardo (Lawrence M. Bullock), by creating "the perfect homosexual." Wanting to play Pygmalion to some hustler's Galatea, Calvin picks up sad-sack UCLA student Hal, who is innocent of the world and his own gayness. Training him includes personal trainers, hairdressers, designers, and lessons in gay etiquette. And then Hal meets the hunky Pool Man.

There is a good deal of parody of "Pygmalion," including the chocolate box scene, and of "Gigi," with Aunt Alicia's lesson in cigars here played by bananas. Semple and Eric Michael Gillett make an amusing parody of Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering, with Semple's neurotic costume-designer-turned-Pygmalion playing to Gillett's suave, mature, and level-headed narrator.

As the ugly duckling who turns into a swan, Scott Cunningham has the appropriate boyish innocence. Adam Barnett is convincingly artless as the muscular pool cleaner who becomes monogamous for the new Hal. As the envied Bernardo, Bullock is delightfully outrƒ as an over-the-hill party boy. Aaron Lee Battle demonstrates tremendous comic range, whether he is playing a Sunset Strip streetwalker, a Hollywood hairdresser, or a house servant on roller skates.

Presented by The Venice Theatre Company at the Greenwich Street Theatre, 547 Greenwich Street, NYC, April 9-19.

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