Four actors. One set. Hot topic. Looking to get a production, vanilla gay playwright Danny (Jonathan Groff) has submitted his first play – Call A Spade “about an alcoholic black mother and her card sharp son trying to get out of the projects” to the Humana Festival and to everyone’s surprise it is accepted for a full scale, first class production. It is supposedly “stirring”.
Sounds great to his best friend Trevor (Will Rogers) and lover Pete (Eddie Kaye Thomas). Only problem is that Danny (thinking that no one would read it with his name attached) has invented a black female playwright – Shaleeha G’ntamobi – that is difficult to pronounce but certainly caught the attention of the Humana Festival folk who selected it to be produced.
Afraid to fess up and lose everything he hires an actress, Emilie (Rutina Wesley) to take his place as the play proceeds to opening night and we discover that they are both bigots. There are lots of cell phone conversations as Emile begins to take over and falls for Danny’s best friend the lanky Trevor which leads to a texting/sexting split-screen scene directed with soft porn panache by Walter Bobbie.
The dialogue is fierce and bristles like firecrackers let loose as the two combatants hit each other fast and furious with the “F-word”. If all the “f-words” were taken out of the script I do believe the one hundred minute show would be shorter by at least ten minutes. It becomes numbing.
The unit set by David Zinn is a marvel as it quickly changes locations keeping up with the rapid pace set by Mr. Bobbie, whose direction is sharp and lethal. The acting is exceptional.
So why did I feel so disappointed? The characters become increasingly unlikable and the resolution is unfulfilling. Somehow I felt bombarded and cheated. Also there is a noticeable gasp from the audience when the “N-word” finally rears its ugly head but no such response when the word “faggot” is thrown into the ring.
Jeff Talbott, author of THE SUBMISSION now running at the Lortel Theatre is the inaugural winner of The Laurents/Hatcher Award (as in Arthur Laurents and his lover Tom Hatcher). He won and won big. Fifty thousand dollars. And one hundred thousand dollars going to the company that would mount the show within a year of winning the award. MCC – Manhattan Class Company, being that company and the other winner.
Whether you think THE SUBMISSION is the winner it is touted to be is ultimately going to be up to you.
At the Lucille Lortel Theatre, through October 22nd. www.mcctheater.org
Photo: Joan Marcus
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