I'm the last of my kind says David Leddick as Mr. Charles, looking like an elongated and cornfed Quentin Crisp working an orange scarf and gazing either at the boards beneath him or over our heads at somewhere far far away.
In Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach, a little jewel of a play by Paul Rudnick (The New Century, Regrets Only, Jeffrey) we meet an unrepentant dinosaur queen far beyond her fertile years, who now, in dotage, takes letters from the Palm Beach viewers of her hilarious romp of a local access TV show. He is joined on stage occasionally by an incredibly gorgeous boyfriend played by Stefan Pinto (of whom we do not see enough) who supports the heart of Mr. Charles with the limited affection that men of a certain age sometimes feel they deserve.
As you'd expect, Mr. Charles wins more of the heart of the audience than he does the boyfriend, and that is what makes this play succeed beyond its clever and funny lines. I gazed at the packed auditorium and wondered how many of the younger attendees have known gay men like Mr. Charles. Men who built lives in the outskirts of a world that rejected their kind. Men who became fabulous as a backlash to oppression. Men finally justified by what they did at Stonewall. They say virtues always skip a generation, so attention must be paid to to such a man by those younger guys who eschew the silly accessories and gestures that compose Mr. Charles. This brief and droll slice-of-a-play tells us that it's OK to be outrageous while leaving us to wonder if the need for fabulosity is expiring before our eyes.
In the second play (a premier), Mexico City, A Play with Music, we meet a feisty old lady played by Merry Jo Cortada, and a transvestite with murderous intent played by Mr. Leddick who is also the play's author. I hate a review that tells you the premise of a play or, God forbid, its plot so I'll just say that you'll be captivated by these folks and thoroughly delighted by what they have to say.
These two plays could be described as lighter fare, perfect for a summer diversion, and not unlike the wine one brings to a picnic, but they pretend nothing more and will have you laughing and entirely satisfied with your attendance.
By way of criticism, I think the performers show excellent comic timing in their delivery of the one-liners but fall short of the fluid movements needed to work out some of the physical moments of both plays. The shimmy-shimmy-snap-snap routine that Mr. Charles performs at least three times needs a lot of work to make it more than trite, and in the second play, the physical interplay between the characters, their dancing and the use of props as weapons needs to be smoother, more poetic and stylized before we can appreciate it. Nothing an hour with Charles Busch couldn't fix. Also, the sexy Mr. Pinto makes a brief appearance in the second play for absolutely no discernable reason. I can only assume that whatever purpose of plot had been originally served by his brief part was eventually cut from the play's ending. Totally mystifying, and yet, so easy on the eyes is he that one ought not complain about this too much. (Seriously folks, this Stefan Pinto is hot, and in his one winning and prolonged bit in the first play, he proves that he can act and is deserving of bigger and better opportunities.)
Go see these two plays. They are being delivered to you as 3PM matinees today and tomorrow at Art Serve in Fort Lauderdale.
ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd.
8 p.m. on Fri. July 3
3 p.m. on Sat. July 4 and Sun. July 5
Tickets $25, $100 for VIP seating