Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Review: The Manly-ish Man Show

Getting men to see theater is hard. Strike that, let me rephrase. Getting married straight men to see musical theater is hard unless they are dragged by their wife. It’s a joke that’s been made for ages. And in Real Men, a musical for guys and the women who put up with them, those men get the spotlight.
In this cabaret style piece, Real Men documents the jokes and running gags of life as an aging straight man. From women to beer to marriage to beer to getting old to beer. Real Men, written by Paul Louis and Nick Santa Maria, is a laugh heavy fun time where stereotypes get lampooned. Louis and Santa Maria structure their piece in sections that document everything from dating to the pains of old age. Real Men is not a book musical but a cabaret with musical sketches and bits. And puppets. There are lots of puppets. What Louis and Santa Maria do is create something they know is super fun. And super fun for them to be a part of. They know their demographic is an older crowd and they play into their hand. But at 90 minutes, Real Men drags on with the same recycled jokes. Cut out thirty minutes and Real Men would be perfect. And there are certainly a couple numbers ripe for the trimming. The music Louis and Santa Maria uses ranges from classic Broadway style to country western to waltz-infused numbers. The majority of the numbers are toe-tappers and head-nodders. Louis and Santa Maria place themselves in their piece along with Stephen G. Anthony. The trio are all suitable vocalists as well as comedians. Anthony, for the most part, takes on the “straight man” role of the sketches leaving Louis and Santa Maria to have the goofy faces and silly voices. The range of characters that the trio takes on is fun to watch. But with one small exception, not one dons drag. The lady parts are left to the puppets. I suppose real men don’t want to see a drag show. The use of puppets is a clever touch for the cabaret atmosphere. While they look like Avenue Q knockoffs, the puppet work is quite good.
Director David Arisco knows how to win the audience over. And that’s with cheap laughs. Arisco and his actors play into visual gags in the majority of their bits. From the “Book of More Men” to a giant penis costume to tiny people on the ledge, the visual humor is never dry. Abundant, but hilarious. With only three men to tackle an assortment of roles, Arisco keeps things moving. With nearly thirty numbers and costume changes between each, Arisco was forced to keep the transitions quick otherwise of the natives would have gotten restless.
Real Men is meant for a cabaret space, not an actual theater as some of the jokes will drive you to drink. This show is destined for a regional tour and dinner theaters across the country. While Louis and Santa Maria were brilliant, they truly wrote a piece that could be passed off to other actors.