- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 19, 2005

“Sex and the City” has nothing on Sausalito, the setting for Norman Allen’s randy comedy “Fallen From Proust.” The characters in this play not only bed-hop, but cross sexual boundaries of all permutations.

If you believe that sexuality is as simple as walking through a door marked “Men” or “Women,” then “Fallen From Proust,” directed with Noel Cowardesque dash by Will Pomerantz, is not the show for you. No one is who they seem, and everybody’s “gay-dar” is in the shop for repairs.

As breezy and smartly paced as Mr. Allen’s play is, a poignancy exists at its center since all the characters feel they cannot be loved for themselves. It is only through deception that they feel worthy of attraction.

The love rectangle begins with two people, Michelle (the effervescent Hope Lambert) and her long-standing boyfriend Gary (Damon Boggess). They have been dating for five years and live in separate apartments, coming together only for banter and sex.

When the play opens, Michelle is helping Gary’s new roommate Roger (Michael Glenn) move in. Actually, “helping” is not entirely true, since Michelle has orchestrated the whole arrangement, hoping that Roger will nudge Gary into a new level of commitment and harbor a sweet crush on Michelle at the same time.

Roger spurs things all right. He’s a homosexual Republican — pro-wearing silk pajamas, anti-show tunes — sparking a seemingly endless series of political jokes at his expense.

He immediately becomes Michelle’s soul mate, and the two are like camp buddies, staying up all night snuggling under blankets and sharing confidences. Gary feels a bit left out, but not to worry: He has a secret lover squirreled away in New York.

After a drunken night when Gary makes a pass at Roger (who, the night before professed his love for Michelle and claimed he “isn’t gay anymore”), everybody has to come clean about their gender preferences, especially when Gary’s squeeze Alan (Daniel Firth) shows up and gleefully regales Michelle with picturesque stories about being a male prostitute.

This all may sound sordid, but Mr. Allen has a snappy way with comebacks and lightly sarcastic riposte that keeps you floating along on a sexy little cloud.

It doesn’t hurt that all four principals are drop-dead gorgeous in that MTV “Real World” sort of way. The characters also get to romp about in James Kronzer’s set, a fantasy apartment with an enviable view of San Francisco: red lacquered walls that bespeak wealth, leather furniture, and framed N.C. Wyeth prints.

Good looks and a great setting go far in keeping the more squalid aspects of “Fallen From Proust” at bay.

Almost. Despite an airy maliciousness, certain aspects of Mr. Allen’s play are troubling. That Roger pretends to be homosexual because he needs a break from the rigors of heterosexuality seems both too blithe and a cop-out. Would Roger, who from all appearances seems a fussbudget, be that incredibly open-minded?

And what do we make of Michelle, perky doormat extraordinaire, who is deceived by two men in the space of 24 hours but still keeps the home fires burning in case one of them wants to return? In a contrived plot development, she befriends Alan and the two become roommates.

Granted, people from San Francisco may be more mellow than those on the East Coast, but moving in with a hustler who slept with your boyfriend for two years? You wonder why we should care about characters who know so little about themselves.

“Fallen From Proust” is one of those bright comedies that work only if you don’t think about them too deeply. Yet there is something sad about people — and a play — built on lies and sexuality that can switch on a dime depending on circumstance or opportunity.

***

WHAT: “Fallen From Proust” by Norman Allen

WHERE: Signature Theatre, 3806 South Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Feb. 20.

TICKETS: $25 to $39

PHONE: 703/218-6500

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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