Oscar E Moore

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Wild Animals You Should Know – Camping out with the Boy Scouts Off B’way

November 28th, 2011 by Oscar E Moore

Jay Armstrong Johnson

Jay Armstrong Johnson

This titillating new play by Thomas Higgins centers around a weekend camping trip in the woods with a couple of unlikely best friend Boy Scouts, a couple of yin and yang dads and one manly, nature loving Scout Master. 

Understandably Mr. Higgins is hitting on a hot topic – sexual shenanigans turned upside down – but he detours from the three main characters in question and has so much extraneous stuff going on that what should be shocking and horrible is dulled by much that could be trimmed.  It’s a case of too little meat and lots of potatoes.

The handsome, straight (or so he insists) narcissistic and evil Matthew (a well toned, handsome and charismatic Jay Armstrong Johnson) begins the play by doing a strip tease via Skype while reciting the Boy Scout Oath as a birthday gift for his best friend on the receiving end – nerdy and 100% gay Jacob (Gideon Glick – who might do well to enunciate better and project his lines).

Jacob adores Matthew.  And Matthew adores that Jacob adores him.  Matthew wants everyone to adore him and his body.  But he is only willing to go so far and they are interrupted with the vision of their male neighbor – seen through binoculars – having sex with another man.  It just so happens that their neighbor is their Scout Master – Rodney (masculine and handsome John Behlmann).

Matthew decides to ruin Rodney in one of the best scenes of the play.  A scene of seduction where the sexual tension is thick and heavy, where he insists that Rodney admit that he wants him or he will out him forcing him to resign.  If Mr. Higgins had focused on these three I believe the play would be the better for it.

However, we get to meet the parents of Matthew:  Marsha (the talented Alice Ripley whose character is hardly there) and her unlikely husband Walter (Patrick Breen) a man who has just been fired and is talked into accompanying their son Matthew despite his aversion to sports and anything remotely connected to the outdoors.

The other dad, Larry (Daniel Stewart Sherman – who also gets to be an embarrassing Chief Wigwam) is your stereotypical overweight beer slugging macho idiot whose idea of strapping a six pack of beer to his belt is the ideal thing to do while supposedly keeping an eye on the kids – and I use the term loosely as both guys are a bit too old to be believable Boy Scout buddies.

There is another not so subtle scene of seduction where Matthew asks to be instructed by Rodney in fly casting which has him rubbing his rear up against Rodney’s crotch, rocking back and forth before casting his bait.

Director Trip Cullman can’t decide on an overall style.  Sometimes naturalistic, sometimes absurd, sometimes satiric, and sometimes bordering into Edward Albee territory, Wild Animals You Should Know’s true path remains to be found.

Through December 11th at The Lortel.  A MCC production.

www.mcctheater.org   Photo:  Joan Marcus

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