Playwright Jason Mitchell’s farcical “The Boys Upstairs” sets up like a pitcher of vodka lemonades on a hot Sunday. Three college friends celebrate clothes, swanky parties, witty banter and men, using the same recipe as “Sex and the City” with just a pinch of “Designing Women” tossed in for zip. Of the three, one is lovable, pretty and Pollyanna-ish, another is a dedicated whore with a Southern-hospitality-heart, and in the center is our favorite nerdy Jewish writer, plug in anyone from Woody Allen to Jerry Seinfeld. Only make them gay.
They quarrel and kvetch; one-liners, zingers and stingers fly as fast as the man-panties. With nary a serious antagonist in sight, they stay as fabulous as the “Friends” kids. No one ever leaves to go to “work” unless they need to throw down an exit-line and slam a door. Pride Films & Plays zips into summer with a play that could get away with being nothing but scantily clad man-froth, but there’s more here than meets the eye.
Director David Zak’s cast is abs-tastic and riotously funny. Gary Henderson is perfect as the sweet, naïve, looking-for-a-relationship Charlotte-type of the group. Shaun Baer does a neat turn as the nearly-a-narcissist friend, drooling a “Georgia On My Mind” accent, Samantha-gone-Southern. At the center of the madness is the imperative every-gay of the story. Nelson Rodriguez neatly sets the others up to crack their quips while providing the honest heart of this seemingly light story.
As the new downstairs neighbor of indeterminate sexual orientation, Tristien Winfree would have been enough walking in the door, his gym-honed and tattooed body more than sufficient to send the boys scratching at each other for the possible prize. But Winfree imbues his character with a subtle shyness and unexpected timidity that wins the day. Luke Meierdiercks plays everyone else in these men’s lives with wit and brilliance as well as a great show tune voice.
But for all the formulaic structuring, “The Boys Upstairs” teaches the lesson that long-term friendships are more important than any summer fling. (Aaron Hunt)
Pride Films & Plays at Mary’s Attic, 5400 North Clark, (800)737-0984, pridefilmsandplays.com, $25-$30. Through July 2.