Entertainment

Nothing But Trash

by Marcus Scott
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Mar 18, 2014
The cast of ’Nothing But Trash’
The cast of ’Nothing But Trash’  (Source:http://theaterforthenewcity.net)

It's quite unfair that the public expects plays that address queer themes and issues, to be an unapologetically preachy epitaph of the culture while brimming with polemical grit and gravity.

But for every "As Is," "Bent," "Take Me Out," "Loot," or "The Boys in the Band," there are a few, far and between, that steer in the polar reverse direction without completely falling off the wagon.

For example, if one were to waltz into the Theater For The New City, located in the epicenter of New York's East Village, during Andy Halliday's latest play mid-show, the level of laughter filling the room might alarm them.

Halliday's "Nothing But Trash," a campy satire of gay pulp fiction and '50s retro teen-angst B movies, delivers belly laughs and lots of heart, while taking a page or two out of mentor Charles Busch's playbook.

Set in 1958 within an idyllic summer resort town, two young men meet at a bed and breakfast and a forbidden love begins. Tab (Tim McGarrigal) is a gee-whiz goody-two-shoes who is very popular with the local youth, while Troy (Rory Max Kaplan) is a curious dreamer and the resident new kid in town.

The star-crossed lovers become inseparable, that is until Troy's mother Beatrice, a raging alcoholic and loose woman, finds out. There's also an equally confused, equally attractive young lad with fire engine red hair who desires the affections of Tab but his feelings aren't returned.

Lies, misunderstandings and blackmail soar. Could Tab and Troy be half-brothers? What results is a crossfire of epic proportions, and the two young men are sentenced to a reform school; a nod to the 1957 film "Reform School Girl."

Tab is sent to a school for better-behaved young men while Troy is sent to the school for young men born on the wrong side of the tracks. Oh, what are these poor boys to do? Will love conquer all and all that jazz? Act One ends with a cliff hanger. It almost seems like they aren't meant to be.

The second act tallies up the laughs as Tab, in a turn of events, is sent to Troy's reform school after a manic blackout: He stole a pair of garden shears and unleashed hell on his former boarding school's lawn, giving it a landscaper's fantasy treatment. While his work on said lawn was praised, Tab was sent to another school as punishment.

But this school isn't for the rainbow and sunshine happy-go-lucky crowd, as Tab soon realizes. He gets initiated into the reformatory's tough-as-nails though not-so-intimidating posse of homoerotic beefcake bad boys who think they run the place.

There's the glue-huffing wild child that's been in and out of juvenile hall throughout his childhood; the not dizzy sensitive side kick; the barrel-chested wise guy who gets brought down a notch; and the sultry compulsive liar with an appetite for kink. But they answer another hell raiser, Silver (an ameliorated Troy).

The show’s leading men, Rory Max Kaplan and especially Tim McGarrigal, warrant praise for their unequivocal, genuine affection and lightheartedness.

Things have changed for the two lovers and nothing will ever be the same again -- or is Troy simply saving face? With an insane warden, a sashaying Dr. Evil doppelgänger with his sassy cat and a serious fetish for growing boys, there's no denying that they are in whole heap of trouble.

The source materials for the parodies of the play was researched with fervor, with nods to "Rebel Without a Cause," a prison escape dance break a la "West Side Story" and chipper prime time of "Peyton Place," and other era-specific telecasts.

Halliday, an actor-writer, who starred in Charles Busch's critically acclaimed "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" and "Psycho Beach Party," among others may have also been influenced by the likes of Christopher Durang and John Waters too. What can one say, he's the sum of his influences! But this is not necessarily a bad thing. If this two-act romp were a superhero, its powers would be that of campy and kitsch.

At times presentational with the cheesiest of plot twists and hammiest of acting (hungry yet?), the show has something that many of the more cerebral off-Broadway shows don't have: heart. Directed by G.R. Johnson, while full of double entendre, the show does takes a NutraSweet approach to sex-opting for laughs than the perverse which worked in turns (the boys' first kiss, a two-minute bit, is hysterical to say the least).

But even with the 100 minute-plus show firing all cylinders to make funny, none of the change in the very engaging characters actually felt earned, even with a call for marriage equality at the denouement. Maybe this could have been explored more had the play began with Act II.

At the moment, it feels kind of like manifest destiny: The audience knew who the characters were, what they wanted and how they would change as people. Well, except for Beatrice, a role almost slightly fitting among the pantheon of famous trouser roles like Edna Turnblad and Miss Trunchbull.

The romantic pairing with former flame and Tab's handsome father, self-made millionaire Richard (a straight-faced John Kevin Jones) is comic gold, too. No one knows just how long their relationship is destined to last, but it does provide plenty of laughs.

Nevertheless, the play is well acted by a solid (and did we mention attractive?) cast. It is chock-full of bicep-rippling chorus boys that couldn't be more versatile (pun-intended): Tim Burke masquerades as closeted artist and junkie; and Steven Wenslawski provides ultra sex appeal as muse and obsession. The biggest ham of them all is that of character Jeffrey Vause, whose over-the-top antics as the spooky handyman and the evil warden garner heavy laughs.

Some performers demanded more attention than others, even with limited stage time. Muscle-pup David Errigo, Jr. changes hats from sweet-faced nerd to unrequited gum-popping cronie with remarkable ease; and daddy-in-training Andrew Glaszek switches from scorned and questioning friend to rumble-ready wise guy with a clever sentience and timing. But the show's leading men, Rory Max Kaplan and especially Tim McGarrigal, warrant praise for their unequivocal, genuine affection and lightheartedness.

This play, in all in flaws, is about one thing, love: The first glimpses of it, the first encounter with heartbreak, and the loss of innocence that comes with it. Love is heaven, love is hell. Love is love and we crave it more than life itself. What a beautiful message.

"Nothing But Trash" runs through March 23 at Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave. For information or tickets, call 212-254-1109 or visit http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net

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