Justin Tanner's comedy frenetically throws caustic barbs at wide-ranging satiric targets. When the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization pressured Tanner to remove dicey parodies of songs from the musical "Oklahoma!" during its 2005 premiere run, the show's hilarious central premise—in which members of a 99-Seat L.A. theater company stage a bawdy gay version of the musical classic—lost a bit of its zing. Thankfully, Tanner's play simultaneously casts a wider net, incisively commenting on vanity and folly in small theater and toxicity in gay relationships. This late-night revival misses the opportunity to reinvigorate what once held promise as one of Tanner's finest works.
The first sign something is amiss is that Tanner's portrayal of Darren—the tyrannical, egotistical dopehead directing "Oklahomo!"—is more stridently manic than funny. While staging the piece written by his former lover, Arthur (Tad Coughenour), Darren brings plenty of personal baggage to the rehearsals, but Tanner portrays him as such a self-centered jerk that motivations for his behavior seem beside the point. Tanner reportedly was inspired to write this play by his experiences in local theater over the years, but his attempts to make cogent points—including the cluelessness and crassness of staging a soft-porn version of a Broadway musical—get lost amid the parade of shrill encounters.
Tanner also directs, and the lack of a discerning outside eye is evident here, as Tanner misses a great deal of the humor. Besides the two squabbling ex-flames, several insecure and libidinous supporting characters add to the pandemonium. Standing out are Chloe Taylor as a religious-fanatic stage manager who's out of her element, Danielle Kennedy as a coke-sniffing music director, and Jonathan Palmer as a straight actor who steadfastly maintains there will be "no tongue" in his interactions with other actors. Guilford Adams, Abby Travis, and Cody Chappel round out the cast.
Presented by and at the Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Nov. 20–Dec. 19. Fri.–Sat., 10:30 p.m. (323) 957-1884. www.celebrationtheatre.com.