A&E Theater: World Premiere at Empire Stage Focuses on the Family

The promotional poster for "Looking for Dick, Finding Jane." Photo via Facebook.

No topic or hallowed tradition is sacred when playwright Michael Aman sits down at his computer. He tackled HIV in his provocative drama “Poz” and provided lighter commentary on gay culture with “Muscle Bears the Musical.”

His latest work, “Looking for Dick, Finding Jane,” opening July 11 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale, promises “drugs, sex, porn, nudity, camping and deer hunting—those great American traditions which have been woefully neglected of late—all piled together into one evening and two slight disturbing comedies.” 

“It’s really two short plays,” explained Aman, who moved to South Florida with his husband, director Michael Bush, three years ago. “I didn’t have the second play in mind until we did a reading in 2012.”

The playwright described his work as “twisted and fun…a silly gay play.” At that reading, one of the actresses suggested that a play about “looking for dick, really needed a character named Jane.” Loaded with lots of double entendre, the plays evolved into an examination of what it means to be family, united by unconditional love. And, like so many gay plays, the “father” plays a central role.

Bush added, “These plays are connected in a thematic manner. Metaphorically, we are all, in life, looking for Dick only to find Jane. The play is about the search for family and our own personal self-identity.”

The first act will remind audiences of Paul Rudnick’s signature “goofiness on top of goofiness,” Aman said, while the second act is an homage to the smart and sometimes satirical comedy of Charles Busch.

In “Looking for Dick,” sister Jane is down on her luck and seeks assistance from her brother Richard, an openly gay man living in the city. She’s surprisingly judgmental and finds herself suddenly confronted with a lifestyle and a cast of colorful characters that are foreign to her suburban New Jersey world view.

“It’s really about somebody who finally discovers what family is all about,” said Aman. 

“Finding Jane,” on the other hand, is a melodramatic murder mystery of sorts, set in a gay campground. There are lots of gender-bending situations as the hunt for a hired assassin plays out.

The cast includes several local veteran actors, including Sharyn Peoples and Harry Redlich, backed up by Brianna Earhardt, Dean Nigro and Hallie Purcell. The biggest challenge for the performers, according to Aman and Bush, is the wide variety of characters they are called to play in each of the short plays. Peoples, in particular, must master three key roles.

Did Aman mention there is also gratuitous male nudity? Yes, in addition to laughs, “Looking for Dick, Finding Jane” offers Empire Stage’s largely mature gay male audience some cheap thrills, too.

Again, the show’ promotional flyer warns, “Two family comedies, but for God’s sake, don’t bring the kids!”

Aman chuckled, “That’s right!”

The world premiere of Michael Aman’s “Looking for Dick, Finding Jane” will be presented July 11 – Aug. 4 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 at EmpireStage.com.