Three Steps Forward, One Step Back
Rising Action Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director David Goldyn has been riding high lately – his small company offered up three successful spring productions launched a well-received cabaret series at The Manor and negotiated a move to a new, and much less expensive performance space on the campus of Sunshine Cathedral.
Unfortunately, the company’s inaugural production in its fantastic new home marks a big step backward for Rising Action.
Nicky Silver’s play, “Fit to be Tied,” at first seems like a perfect choice for Rising Action, which has carved an important niche with gay-themed works. Silver weaves a complex tale with several subplots guaranteed to pack the gay boys into the seats:
First, there is Arloc, the rich gay man who impulsively kidnaps the latest object of his affections, Boyd, a young performer trying to make a living portraying an angel in the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. So, we have BDSM and a scantily-clad twink boy—CHECK!
And then there’s Nessa, Arloc’s boozing mother, and the strained relationship with her son. When Arloc’s father left him the money in his will, she sued him (or rather the estate). So, now we add in dysfunctional family relationships and drunken escapades—CHECK!
Finally, there’s the inevitable HIV/AIDS tie-in as Arloc refuses to open the envelope that contains the results of his HIV test. Pretty serious stuff playing to the HIV/AIDS activist crowd—CHECK!
Throw in plenty of absurd antics and lots of sharp-tongued one-liners and there’s no way this play won’t succeed in a room filled with gay men and their friends. All the elements are there—except the acting.
“Fit to Be Tied” is a relatively complex play—almost too complex and certainly 15 minutes too long—that requires skilled actors who can explore and communicate the highly nuanced characters without letting the absurd humor and slapstick completely take over.
With tight budgets, Goldyn was again forced to rely on two of his community theater-washouts from the past, Larry Fields as Arloc and Brandon St. John as Boyd. While Field delivers his strongest performance at Rising Action to date, this role is completely beyond his abilities.
As for St. John, there were audible sighs of relief in the audience when he was finally ballgagged during the kidnapping scene. Instead of portraying Boyd as a conflicted, opportunistic hustler, St. John offers up a shrieking, Nelly queen. The audience gasped as the show took one of its most ridiculous turns as Boyd embraced Nessa, kissed and proceeded to bed her, resulting in an unbelievable love triangle.
The only relief was Kitt Marsh’s Nessa, the binge-drinking mother who is nuttier than Will & Grace’s Karen Walker. And even Marsh had difficulties settling into the role, finally hitting her stride somewhere in the middle of the first act.
Despite this production’s many, many shortcomings, “Fit to be Tied” delivers plenty of laughs and there will undoubtedly be a few gay boys who enjoy the show, regardless of its delivery.
“Fit to be Tied” by Nicky Silver
Rising Action Theatre
Sunshine Cathedral, 1480 NW 9th Ave., Ft. Lauderdale
Friday-Sunday through October 24, 8 p.m.
Tickets $35 at RisingActionTheatre.com