Peter Mac in Judy and Me
(© Liz Liguori)
Peter Mac in Judy and Me
(© Liz Liguori)
In Peter Mac's Judy and Me, now at St. Luke's Theatre, a young gay man learns how to cope with his often harsh life thanks to imagined conversations he has with film icon Judy Garland. As this brief description might indicate, this sweetly earnest work doesn't exactly escape the clichés and stereotypes associated with gay male identity, nor does director Charles Tolliver's slack pacing help matters by deadening the few actually funny moments within the script.

In the play, Anthony (Christopher Brick) keeps skipping his high school classes to escape the persecution he feels from his fellow students. His bedroom is his refuge, where he can listen to his beloved Judy Garland records and also imagine that Judy (embodied by Mac himself, in drag), is there with him, offering advice and comfort.

Judy isn't his sole support system, however. There's also his loving mother Joanne (Jean Ann Kump), his best friend Stephanie (Elyse Beyer), and the delinquent Jimmy (Christopher McCabe), who is open to sexual experimentation with Anthony. McCabe also doubles as Anthony's later love interest Rick, and Basil Meola rounds out the cast as Anthony's physically abusive father.

Brick nicely conveys Anthony's awkwardness, and seems emotionally connected to the material, particularly when recounting an incident of bullying by his peers. Mac does a passable Garland impression, but doesn't have the vibrant stage presence necessary to electrify audiences; the two songs he sings, "The Man That Got Away" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" are also a bit lackluster. Beyer is appropriately spunky as Stephanie, but comes across as a little too forced at times. Kump (whose appearance suggests she might be trying to impersonate Liza Minnelli) doesn't bring much dimension to her portrayal. McCabe successfully creates different characterizations for his two roles, while Meola flatly performs an even more flatly written character.

In a coda that Mac performs out of drag at the show's end, he makes clear the autobiographical underpinnings to the story, and delivers the expected feel-good message about learning to love and accept yourself. And yet, despite whatever truth may be inherent in the tale, the play follows such a predictable trajectory that it feels like you've heard it all somewhere before.