The Twentieth-Century Way
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The Twentieth-Century Way: Theater review by Christopher Kompanek
Lines of desire, reality and morality are artfully blurred in Tom Jacobson’s cleverly constructed and deeply moving two-hander, which uses vaudevillian flair to savagely detail the lengths the Long Beach Police Department went to just a century ago to expose prominent gay men in their community. The intermissionless play unfolds over a series of seamlessly connected scenes that cut across borders of time and space as two actors, Brown (Will Bradley) and Warren (Robert Mammana), rehearse seductions on each other, then seek out their prey in the bated breaths that punctuate their caged desires.
There’s undeniable chemistry between the two, which heightens the irony of these entrapment routines. Jacobson writes in sharply turned phrases that evoke the spare joy of ’40s noir while adding slapstick physicality to the arrest scenes, making the audience indirectly complicit in these horrific acts. As the fourth wall erodes, the actors also are forced to grapple with the melding of their own lives into their characters’ identities.—Christopher Kompanek
Rattlestick Playwrights Theater (Off Broadway) By Tom Jacobson. Directed by Michael Michetti. With Will Bradley, Robert Mammana. Running time: 1hr30mins. No intermission.