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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chicago Theater: 10 Attractive Reasons to See 'F**king Men'

Isn't the title alone enough reason to go see this show? It certainly sparked my interest since "fucking" and "men" are two of my favorite words - and playwright Joe DiPietro successfully puts them together to create an entertaining and enlightening evening of theater. I must confess that I wasn't sure what to expect from DiPietro, who is best known for writing "the straightest musical of all time" (according to his program bio), I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, as well as the Broadway musicals, All Shook Up, and the Tony Award-winning Memphis. But after seeing Bailiwick Chicago's current production of Fucking Men, I'm happy to report that the talented guy knows his way around a delicious gay comedy-drama.

Photos by Jeremy Lawson Photography

Fucking Men is loosely based on Arthur Schnitzler's play, La Ronde, about a series of ten encounters between lovers in Vienna during the 1890s. DiPietro has given this basic premise a queer update, setting his tale of ten homosexual men in contemporary New York City. The audience then follows these characters through ten interlocking scenes as a young hustler meets a soldier in a park and then the soldier hooks up in a gym's sauna with a graduate student, who later becomes involved with a college kid and this merry-go-round of lustful connections continues until we're back at the beginning with the hustler having just spent the night with an older TV journalist. DiPietro's dialogue is sharp and funny, and there's a realistic rawness to the words and situations that made me believe that these men could actually exist. It's an honest portrayal of gay life that is not always easy to watch - but it does help to have a few brief glimpses of nudity among the attractive cast as they get dressed and undressed. However, only one of the actors does a full monty for any length of time - but I'm not going to ruin this pleasant surprise by naming names.

Besides DiPietro's writing, I also liked Tom Mullen's excellent direction, Jared B. Moore's impressive lighting design, and John Rotonda's simple but effective scenic design. But the main reason to see this production is the terrific ensemble of ten actors, who all inhabit their characters perfectly:

Arthur Luís Soria as a young hustler

A hunky Cameron Harms as a closeted soldier who "isn't gay"

Armand Fields as a graduate student

A very amusing and energetic Cameron Johnson as a college kid

Thad Anzur and Karmann Bajuyo as a married gay couple in an open relationship

Christian Kain Blackburn as a young porn star (he has the best program bio of the bunch)

A fabulous Ryan Lanning as a playwright

Beau Forbes as a closeted movie star

And last but certainly not least, Norm Woodel as a TV journalist (I especially found his performance quite moving)

Mullen and Bailiwick's Casting Director Lili-Anne Brown deserve a round of applause for giving all of these guys a chance to shine. So if you're in the mood for a groovy gay play, I highly recommend that you go see Fucking Men, which runs through July 25 at the Theatre Building Chicago/Stage 773 at 1225 W. Belmont. For tickets, call the box office at 773-327-5252 or visit the Fucking Men website at Below you can watch two videos featuring some of the actors discussing their characters and the play, and to see more cast vlogs, click here.

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