A young prostitute is accused of murdering a wealthy Hollywood producer. Headlines explode. Lawyers clash. Scandalous liaisons emerge. It has all the makings of a film noir thriller from the '40s or '50s, but instead of Susan Hayward we get a gay hustler in post-millennial Beverly Hills, the kind who, it is said, wears "a suit and tie on the red carpet and not much at home."
Pieces by Chris Phillips, which is running at the Cherry Lane Theatre, is billed as a new play, but its tale, despite a few topical references, comes across as a bit musty and clichéd. The story revolves, not so much around Shane, the hustler (Chris Salvatore), but around Rory (Jonathan Gibson), the self-loathing, gay public defender who is assigned to his case.
Unfortunately, director Brian Zimmer is not able to smooth the rough edges of the script with consistently subtle performances from his actors. Only Nina Millin, as Shane's prosecutor and Gibson's friend, is able to underscore the harsh notes of her character with a dynamic inner life. Millin's first scene with Gibson is the moment that the play really takes off.
Joe Briggs plays the contrived character of a crusading gay reporter and does what he can with lines like, "Self-righteous anger makes me hot." Both Salvatore and Paolo Andino -- who plays a rich colleague of the murder victim -- strive for naturalistic portrayals, with limited success.
A challenge of this play is that it's stuck in a 1980s, early '90s mindset. Several of its gay characters, onstage and off, seem to have just missed the benefits of the "It Gets Better" generation of LGBT enlightenment. And, of course, that's sadly plausible, as recent suicide statistics attest. But Phillips needs to freshen up his dialogue and allow more complexities into his story to make it effectively believable.
-- Andy Buck