What makes a man a real man?
SceneShop Productions examines that testosterone-drenched question in its collection of brief one-acts and skits collected under the banner of Real Men, the show that opened at Arts Fifth Avenue on Saturday.
Most of the show’s seven segments (created by a wide variety of writers and performers) work to some extent. And a couple are outright winners.
The Real Deal, written by Natalie Gaupp, is the only vignette that has an all-female cast, made up of the always delightful Debbie Dacus and Peggy Bott Kirby. Dacus plays a hooker who has been hired by Kirby to determine if her husband is a “real man.” The answer she receives is much more complicated, and hilarious, than she ever anticipated. Both women are great. Kirby’s work is impressively subtle, and Dacus is as much of a scream as her outrageous street-walking clothes.
Former Star-Telegram staffer Todd Camp is joined by Kyle Trentham in HSVN Late Night: With Men in Mind by Gaupp and Steven McGaw. Playing the hosts of the worst shift at a home-shopping network, the two actors play off one another with crackling timing. Camp, who plays his part of Katie in drag, could have feminized his character a bit more. And the piece, which has less to do with the show’s theme than any of the other parts, needs a better ending. But the zingers in the script and the skills of the performers make this skit one of the funniest in this mostly-comic revue.
A few other sections come across well, with some qualifications. McGaw is especially compelling as the Scotch-swilling fat-cat in the final piece, Rougher Stuff, which he also wrote. The dialogue is particularly well wrought, and Joshua Eguia and A.J. Blake are strong in their supporting performances. But it goes on a bit long and then stretches out its ending by telling things we already know.
The opening scene, Hotter, written by Stuart Stringer, features an intense, Breaking Bad-like performance from Steven Cashion. But it is muted somewhat by odd staging that has the actor frequently reading his lines from a script on a podium.
And Sandwich, written and performed by Dale Shelton and Allison Willoughby, is mostly fun, but is guilty of being too predictable.
The other two segments, Clear River, written by McGaw and played by Michael Carver-Simmons, and Setting the Record Straight, written by Avery Barnhart and featuring Carver-Simmons and Kirby, have problems with either their writing or acting. One or both could be dropped from this collection that runs too long at two hours and 40 minutes. Also be aware that the show’s texts employ some strong language — the sort of talk real men like.