A gay soiree 

Who: Ray, Kevin, Philip, Brian, Peter, James and Andy get together for shots, Bugles, shits and giggles.

Where & When: 1515 Broadway, every Thursday through Sunday until Dec. 2.

What: Be prepared for Carol Channing imitations, “tell-all” talk, a whole lot of one-liners — and don’t bother wearing your underwear, girl, because the goal of this get-together is to get down to the bottom of things.

Party, David Dillon’s off-Broadway hit, has finally made it to Detroit after selling out theaters all over the continent. It’s a libation to gay life (that’s homosexual and happy) in a party package that asks nothing more than for its audience to have a couple hours of fun, fun, fun.

In an apartment embellished with posters of musicals (Cats, 42nd Street, Les Mis, etc.) and a dramatically displayed portrait of Audrey Hepburn, Kevin and Ray set the mood and set out snacks for the gala with playful banter and bullying. One by one the others arrive, inciting much kissing and hugging and even a few “sweetie”s, until they eventually begin a card game called “Facts and Fantasies” (basically “Truth or Dare” with room for little extras). Like many such events, there’s ritualistic, obligatory name-dropping, including Edith Piaf, Andrew Lloyd Webber and “Barbra,” along with more obscure theatrical references, such as that raspy-voiced “Elaine Stritch, you philistine!” Add a few shots of alcohol to break down any inhibitions that may have wandered in off the street, and voilà, you have one light-hearted gay soiree.

But even though Party has faired very well, its script is incredibly unextraordinary, no deeper or heavier than a tub of Cool Whip. Its backbone consists of musical references, sexual anecdotes, sexual fears, sexual fantasies, sexual peccadilloes and sexual … sex. It’s like a teen girl pajama party that’s turned Teen Beat and Mademoiselle into gay-porn mags, pillow fights into pillow-arranging fights and innocent imitations of stripteasing into “just take it all off.” It’s a boy-to-boy, spin-the-bottle spin-off, a romping chick flick with dick — and don’t be surprised if they let it all hang out.

“What’s your favorite sexual act?” You can imagine the disappointment when the greenest character of the play answers “kissing.” But Andy soon convinces the throng as well as the audience of his sincerity, as actor Eric James Sever possesses a wonderful ability to exhibit everything he’s feeling in his face before confirming it verbally. Archetypes, stereotypes, whatever you choose to call them: You’ll see James, the tough yet playful leather biker played by Robert Nanninga; Brian, the sexy, totally uninhibited dancer played by Timothy Avant; and Ray, priest-in-training and master of quickie comebacks and musical mouthfuls played by James Helberg. All three actors garner affection from and entertain the audience, which is imperative for a script like this — the cast’s weakest link being Tomas Roland as Kevin, who tends to mumble and speak with a deadpan quality that periodically takes you out of the spontaneity of the occasion.

Whether you’re straight, gay or just not thinking about it, you’ll catch an occasional quip that crosses all gender preferences: “You’d sleep with anybody.” “I draw the line at Carrot Top.” But if you’re looking for earth-shattering, the best you’ll get from Party is ass-twittering — and like most parties, it goes on just a little too long. Though you will laugh and most likely leave the house in higher spirits.

by David Dillon
through Sunday, Dec. 2
1515 Broadway, Detroit
Call 313-965-1515.

Anita Schmaltz writes about theater and performance for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com

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