Wednesday, April 29

Theater Review: Dear Henry: When Loves Blows Up

Unable to make it to NYC for the debut of "Dear Henry," written
 and directed by Arthur Wooten, I asked a fellow critic, John Simmons, to step in for me as he has reviewed theater in Miami and now NYC.
With the house lights still on – and with the audience at Christopher Street’s cozy Cabaret Theater amiably chatting and sipping wine – a tall, thin, bespectacled young man begins re-arranging the furniture in his apartment for what appears to be a dream date. He pours two glasses of wine, compulsively rearranges the furniture, and constantly primps in front of an imaginary mirror – all while trying on shirt-after-shirt, in an effort to capture just the right “look” for the evening’s extracurricular activities.

The young man is Clark Compton Lowell III (Luke Doyle) who, when the house lights go down, will spend the next hour or so telling us about his relationship with the love of his young life: a man named Henry.

We really never see Henry. Instead, we learn of their on-again-off-again love affair through a series of letters the two have written to one another – all read (and accompanied by some very funny commentary) by Clark himself. These letters tell us that, while Clark is a sexual naïf whose first sexual experience was with a rubber raft named “Ken,” Henry is a mess ~ for starters, Henry is seriously into leather and bondage and is rumored to have done jail time for selling drugs.

As the evening progresses, the story of their relationship becomes wilder (and stranger) as we learn that Henry – among his many shortcomings – comes equipped with a prosthetic penis, the result of carnivorous fish nibbling off his penis after he drunkenly fell overboard during a gay cruise that he and Clark took together. It is all very outrageous and over-the-top (with Doyle playing multiple characters), when suddenly the mood changes …
In a spotlighted soliloquy, we learn that Clark loves Henry because Henry accepts himself for who he is, while Clark spends countless hours mercilessly judging others – including Henry and, especially, himself. Clark wishes he were more like Henry and, tonight, intends to ask Henry to marry him (if only he hadn't kept pushing Henry away).

Without giving away too much, the play has a happy ending. It’s all very touching … but because so little time has been spent drawing realistic characters placed in realistic situations (in an effort to earn big laughs), it doesn't feel earned. In fact, it feels tacked on.

Dear Henry is often funny and touching where and when it needs to be. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that in 2015, in a trendy theater in the heart of New York City … you expect a little more.

Dear Henry continues Sun., May 3 at 7 pm, and Sat., May 9 at 7 pm at The Duplex, located at 61 Christopher Street at 7th Avenue.
Details and tickets: (212) 255-543,

Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.