Nobody emerges unstained in Douglas Carter Beane’s comedy about celebrity, closeted homosexuals and a vapid entertainment world in which asking an agent to give her word is like “asking a whore for her cherry.” In this supremely entertaining but problematic About Face Theatre production, it is possible to submit to the play’s joys and Eric Rosen’s glossy direction while being keenly aware of just how empty the show really is. Mitchell (Kea Coco) is a film actor with the kind of long-limbed confidence that cannot fully mask the awkwardness seeping through around the edges. He claims to be straight, though a drunken phone call summoning a young male prostitute called Alex (Levi Holloway) indicates otherwise. Mitchell’s agent, a brass-balls-and-pearls type (Mary Beth Fisher) is having none of this—if her client wants a big-league career, he’ll keep his mouth shut about the gay thing. It is a mad, rip-roaring role that Fisher nails about half of the time; at her best, she conjures a woman who can pander the ego and land a verbal bitch slap in one fluid motion. If you swallow the play’s conceit, Alex the hustler also has a girlfriend. I’m not sure if it’s the role or Holloway’s portrayal, but his homosexuality never seems to be in doubt, which opens up a credibility problem in the script. Might as well sidestep this concern and focus instead on Beane’s acidic putdowns that offer the soothing reassurance that fame is best enjoyed on this side of the divide. (Nina Metz)
At the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted. This production is now closed.