Closet Corpses

Man for Man Tonight and Next Weekend, at the Loeb Ex

MUCH of the humor in Michael Bronsk's Man for Man derives from jokes that would seem dated on the most ordinary television situation comedy. Most jokes are on the order of a character's exclamation at a policeman's inopportune knock: "Don't just stand there... panic!" Many of these jokes seem dated in Man for Man as well as on television. But other do not, largely because the plot of Man for Man is a bit less bland than most situation comedies: at the end of the play, for example, four out of the eight male characters--all of whom are homosexual in varying degrees--have been shot to death.

The play is set in the Potted Palms Hotel, which Alex and Randy have just inherited from Randy's Uncle Harold. There are corpses in the closets, a comic policeman who wants protection money ("nobody's going to get shot unless I pull the trigger," he reassures everyone,) and Cosmic Debris, who claims to be an old friend of Uncle Harold ("Poor old Harold," he sniffs miserably. "Sometimes I think all he ever lived for were the mangoes and the potted palms.") As in any other farce, the plot finally comes unravelled with a bang--four, in fact. Afterwards, two women--Funny Uncle Harold's nieces--come on stage, make the survivors carry off the bodies, and offer a sort of moral: "You know the old saying: Put seven men in a room, and nine will come out dead."

The acting is uneven and there are lots of awkward moments, but Craig Bowley as Randy, Michael Mitchell as Alec, Bernie Holmberg as their producer (both of them were "in the theater," they explain, before they inherited the hotel), and George Clark as Cousin Warren keep everything except Uncle Harold's corpse (and maybe even that) above water most of the time. Lee Abraham, who directed and also plays Cosmic Debris, stands out--he's polished and in command all the way through.

There are four inoffensive songs by Richard Ross.

"Man for Man is an unusual kind of play," a program note remarks. "For us, and for the countless faggots who previously had no voice with which to speak or to which they could listen, it marks a beginning. But one which we hope you will find entertaining." It's a reasonable hope, and a reasonable play.