The latest from Richmond Triangle Players offers insight to go with its more risqué sights. 

Go "West," Young Man

The promise of lots of naked men is probably what drew a capacity crowd to Fieldens Cabaret Theatre last Wednesday to see the latest production from the Richmond Triangle Players. But "Key West" is much more than just a show of butts: This uproarious comedy manages to present an insightful look into gay life in the new millennium, complete with Internet chat rooms, openly gay clergy and post-AIDS hopefulness. It's campy enough to include interludes of slamming-door farce, the occasional snippet of song from an old musical and a boy in a wedding dress. But "Key West" is most audacious in its honesty as it depicts men who simply want love and who are somewhat clueless about how to get it.

Set in a "clothing optional" resort, the play reveals (as it were) the "gay Mecca" of the island of Key West through the eyes of two aging gay men who have seen it all but who aren't too old to learn some new tricks. The mile-a-minute talker Tracy (Scott Minor) has come south to revel in the hedonistic lifestyle, bedding down with a young Swedish go-go boy, improbably named Rodd (Ben Stone). Tracy is traveling with his stodgy old friend, Mel (Jay McCullough), who hasn't fallen in love since his last visit to the Keys 18 years before. Complications arise when a n„ive Nebraska boy, Jeff (Jake Mosser), shows up looking for his Internet lover. Before the curtain falls, the characters all discover new partners and new possibilities.

Minor provides the pep that powers this show — he is unrelenting in his cheerful sex obsession. In addition to being a fine comedian, Minor skillfully reveals a sadder, more desperate side of his character in the second act without ever becoming maudlin. As the curmudgeon of the crowd, McCollough has a narrow range to play but does so with assurance.

While these two veterans deliver notable performances, Mosser makes the most impressive impact here in his professional acting debut. As an innocent but eager country boy, Mosser has a naturalistic style and earnest sincerity that bodes well for his future. Ben Stone and R. Neil Palik provide plenty of laughs in their roles as tropical boy-toys; both infuse shades of depth into what could have been throw-away roles. Only Marty Manuel, playing Don the gay priest, is a bit of a clunker in this cast. His stiff delivery clashes with the personality of a clergyman who eagerly hopes to "get it on."

RTP asserts that their "Key West" is only the second production of the show done in the country. Clearly the characters' lack of inhibitions — as well as lack of clothing — scares off plenty of producers. This is unfortunate because playwright Jack Heifner's piece is wonderfully catty, often thoughtful and loaded with laughs. Director John Knapp leads his cast through this production with vigor, never getting bogged down in the opportunities for overdramatic drudgery. His "Key West" is more than just a nice place to visit. It's a perfect place for a toasty comic warm-up during these cold winter


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