What if you’re the real playwright but feel that what you’ve written about an African-American mother and her son would be unacceptable coming from a newbie white guy writer? What would any young white guy in this position do? Make up a name of a black female, then collude with a black gal, who isn’t quite making it as an actress, and ask her to assume your identity as the playwright!
Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening) plays Danny, a young gay, whose play has just been accepted into the Humana Festival. But he can’t show up not only because of the content of what he’s written, but because he’s used a black female nom-de-plume. It’s all an ethnic and racial time bomb. Danny is a sharp kid whose best friend from college days is Trevor (Will Rogers), and live-in significant other is Pete (Eddie Kaye Thomas), a loving caretaker of a boyfriend. Danny hires Emile (Rutina Wesley) convincing her to play the role of author at the Festival, promising her a big percentage of what he hopes will be a major hit down the road, and saying he will own up to his authorship at the Festival post production. In the meantime, it doesn’t take long for Trevor and Emile to find themselves attracted to one another and having a relationship.
The scenes are fast-moving along with the contemporary dialogue – – – almost Seinfeld reminiscent, funny, smart and witty (minus the 4-letter words). It’s quick and furious as they go down the road to disaster in this racial vs. gay themed play; Danny trying to enlighten Emile how the world works racially, that they are both the same; he being ghettoized as a gay, she as a black.
The play throws all caution to the wind about political correctness with the biting, below-the-belt insults between Danny and Emile. No holds barred as true feelings, hatreds and bigotries fly, the situation spinning out of control. We don’t always know who we really are as lessons in real-time life are learned.
Groff is particularly charming as the young, eager but confused playwright as is Wesley as the tough female, with all actors turning in prize-winning performances that prove noteworthy conversation over that next cocktail.
“The Submission” is a new play written by Jeff Talbott who won the inaugural Laurents/Hatcher Award. This is a playwright to watch! Award winning Tony director Walter Bobbie (Chicago) does a magnificent job with this dynamite cast at MCC Theater. The clever scenic design is to the credit of David Zinn as the set converts easily from coffee shop to hotel room to apartment.
Lucille Lortel Theatre, Christopher Street, NYC thru October 22nd. www.mcctheater.org