No Homo

Michael Van Duzer Reviews - Theater

No Homo was originally seen at the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival, where it won a number of awards, including “Best World Premiere.” It later traveled to the New York Fringe where it was, likewise, celebrated. It has returned to Los Angeles for a full production.

Luke (Michael James Lutheran) and Ash (Jonny Rodgers) are longtime roommates whose lives are so intertwined that, though they profess to be straight, most people assume that they are a couple. The confusion is understandable as their relationship includes everything long-term couples share but the sex. The crucial lack of this element is what will finally force the pair to examine their beliefs and desires about themselves and each other.

We are introduced to Luke and Ash, out with friends and relatives, on a barely sober spree at the Abbey. Luke is entertaining his visiting sister, Chrissy (Lauren Flans) and his new girlfriend, Babette (Elizabeth Ellson). Ash has brought along his brother, Serge (AJ Jones) and Serge’s boyfriend, Kris (Henry McMillan) to celebrate their moving in together. As the attention-seeking Chrissy gets drunker and louder, Luke retreats further into himself. When she announces that she’s a lesbian, Luke explodes and tears into the entire group with a fury that clearly shows the fissures beneath his nice-guy exterior. It also indicates that there is more on playwright Brandon Baruch’s mind than a frothy, skin-deep survey of West Hollywood watering holes. (A brunch at Basix is also included.)

Baruch’s dialog crackles with lively wit and an economical, but sure sense of character delineation. He packs a lot into the play’s intermissionless 95 minutes. The fluidity of sexual identity, monogamy, internalized homophobia, fear of rejection, and just how much we can hurt the ones we love are all touched on with honesty and abundant humor. Jessica Hanna directs her talented ensemble with a sure hand and a care for the abrupt changes of mood in the play. David Offner’s efficient set design gives us just enough to place the surprisingly varied changes of scene.

Rodgers is a charmingly sympathetic Ash, and Lutheran’s brave performance pulls no punches with Luke’s conflicted psyche. Jones’ surly Serge hides a closet romantic, and, with what could easily be just another stereotype, McMillan finds layers in Kris. In a show that is decidedly about the men, these ladies manage to make a real impression. Chrissy’s thoughtless prickliness may not endear herself to people, but Flans makes her human, while Ellson’s Babette shows surprising backbone after realizing she’s been taken in once again.

According to friends who saw the Fringe production, the end of the play has been revised. And, while I have no problem with the climactic choice, there is a slight feeling of something unfinished in that final moment. But that should certainly not deter anyone from catching this entertaining and thought-provoking new play.

Atwater Village Theatre   August 1 – 23, 2015