Oscar E Moore

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STRAIGHT WHITE MEN – Boys will be boys

July 28th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore

On view at the Helen Hayes Theater is STRAIGHT WHITE MEN written by Young Jean Lee who has the distinction of being the first Asian-American woman to be produced on Broadway.  A Second Stage production in a very limited run through September 9th after its initial foray at the off-Broadway Public Theater in 2014.

It stars Armie Hammer, making his Broadway debut.  He recently made headlines for his appearance in the film CALL ME BY YOUR NAME alongside a peach.  He is handsome, tall and charming.  He is quite good as one of the three sons spending Christmas with their dad in a family room in the Midwest that looks surprisingly like Levittown circa 1955.

Tall, charming and funny.  He is given an opportunity to let loose in a dance similar to that dance in the aforementioned movie.  But this is hardly a stretch for him.  One wonders what made him want to appear in this “slight three scene sit-com” with “superfluous curtain raiser” featuring low key Native American performer Ty Defoe and 70 year old transgender pioneer Kate Bornstein as our guides.

After being assaulted by the extremely loud rap music for almost 30 non-stop minutes they explain why.  Why I ask antagonize the audience to begin with?  They explain.  At least the noise has stopped and they are somewhat amusing standing before a Mylar Disco/Cabaret curtain that ascends to reveal the true set that is framed like a diorama in the Museum of Natural History.

Person in Charge 1 and Person in Charge 2 (our guides) place the actors and change set pieces during the performance.

And now to the play.

Fond memories of MY THREE SONS bubble up to the surface.  A widower raising his three young boys.  But in STRAIGHT WHITE MEN these boys are adult men acting like adolescents visiting their dad (Stephen Payne) for Christmas.  Ho Ho Hum….

Drew (Armie Hammer) a successful writer – the youngest – promotes therapy for his older brother Matt (Paul Schneider) who has moved back in with his dad for financial reasons.  He is happy with his temp job and cleaning up and taking care of the household.  Witness the elongated scene of him (1) vacuuming and (2) clearing up the empty beer bottles.  Jake (Josh Charles) is a divorced banker who loves video games.

They play a board game PRIVILEGE that their late mother adapted from MONOPOLY to teach them tolerance.  Perhaps that is why Jake married a black woman.  They jostle and tease and poke one another and eat popcorn and Chinese takeout and drink beer and sort of decorate the forlorn artificial half lit tree.  They dance.  They sing.  Dad sort of plays a guitar.  They wear sort of matching flannel PJ’s and eventually try to help Matt who unexpectedly ends the first scene in tears.  Matt doesn’t want their help.  He wants to help others.  Will he give in before we do?

By this time we just want them all to leave Matt be.  He’s happy.  Except for that crying jag.  And if these were my brothers and my father I’d be crying too.  There are some funny lines.  The best one dealing with the eggnog.  It’s a not so merry Christmas.  Directed by Anna D. Shapiro.  90 minutes.  No intermission.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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