Nobody knows his audience better than Christian DeVries, producing director of Bienvenue Theatre. His latest production, Ed Allen's Saturday Night at Billy's, is filled with the muscle-bound, pretty-faced twentysomethings that his mostly gay male patrons hoot over. The fact that the entire story of Saturday Night takes place in the dressing room of a strip club for ladies, where the sexy male cast members get down to their skivvies, only helps pack the house. Audience members audibly ooh and aah throughout the show, and buy glitzy calendars with pinup pictures of the cast during intermission. But as nice as these guys might be to look at, they are an inexperienced lot in the acting department. The best credential one actor lists in the program is the fact that he was born "on the sidelines of the music business." On the other hand, it's not as if Allen's fluffy love story offers much for even an actor with chops.
Directed by Randall Jobe, the story opens in the club's dressing room. Surprisingly tidy and boringly beige, this comfy little space has heard some catty talk. Corky (Damien Dane) and Danny (Drew Manning), two of the strip joint's more experienced dancers, heft their dance bags onto the foldout table and begin the gossip about who's sleeping with whom and who's about to get canned for misbehaving. Together for ten years, despite Corky's constant flirtations with every new boy, these two have everything the rest of the dancers want: lots of steamy love and a happy home. From here, Allen's play rolls predictably onward till every guy gets his man.
Of course, there's trouble along the way. For instance, dark and sultry Tom (Erik Soliz), known as Supper Dick among his cohorts for more reasons than one, is in love with Newt (Jeffrey Seals), a blond, blue-eyed kid whom everyone looks out for. Trouble is, Tom is so deep in the closet that he spends most of his time bragging in explicit detail about all the women he's taken home from the club. He even pulls out the nightstick he uses in his cop act to demonstrate his lady-killer moves.
Saturday Night at Billy's
Bienvenue Theatre, 3722 Washington Avenue
Through April 13; 713-426-2626. $20-$30
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To complicate matters, Tom has brought in a new guy from his hometown to work at the club. Cherubic Matt (Enri De La Rosa) is such an innocent that he actually believes Tom is straight. After all, he reasons, Tom starred on the football team in high school -- never mind that they had a one-night stand a couple of years back. And even though Tom is such a homophobic jerk, Matt can't help being a bit gaga over the gorgeous "older man."
To complete the circle of heartache, an Adonis named Al (Joseph Hart) makes it clear that he has more than a passing fancy for Matt. Finally, the men realize that something needs to be done about that bad boy Tom. If somebody doesn't straighten him out, so to speak, he's going to mess up Newt's, Matt's and Al's chances for love.
After a few tongue lashings and confessions, everything works out all right. Tom comes out, Al and Matt are free to get together, and by the end of the show, every stripper has someone to love.
Jobe directs his handsome cast with lots of campy energy. In fact, there's so much camp in this show, it's hard to believe that a bar full of women wouldn't know the dancers are gay. But that hardly seems to matter, as the real audience at Bienvenue is clearly thrilled with the soap opera-style love story and its thonged stars.