Topher Payne’s new play Perfect Arrangement at the Duke Theater is the perfect play for Gay Pride week. This is the play that states not only did straight American’s hinder the movement, but so did the people who fought for their rights. The cast is first rate and the direction by Michael Barakiva, makes it seem as if you are caught in 1950s Twilight Zone sitcom. Taking place during the Lavender Scare where sexual “deviants” were targeted for dismissal from federal employment, we begin in the apartment of Bob Martindale (a charming if not uptight Robert Eli) who leads the Personnel Security Board at the Department of State and his wife Millie (the perfect Mikaela Feely-Lehmann). Next door his secretary, Norma Baxter (the level headed Julia Coffey) lives with her husband, Jim (the handsome Christopher J. Hanke). In the closet there is a door, which hides the secrets of this couple. Bob loves Jim, and Norma loves Millie and the living arrangements aren’t what they seem. All works like a hand in a glove until Bob’s boss, Mr. Sunderson (Kevin O’Rourke), adds homosexuals to the sexual deviant list, as Mr. Sunderson’s wife Kitty (a amusing Jennifer Van Dyck), wants to be best friends with the girls who find her someone to ignore and now can’t.
When bisexual translator Barbara Grant (the fabulous Kelly McAndrew) makes the hit list the cards fall. You see how Millie became a lesbian, was in the arms of Ms. Grant and Ms. Grant is not going down easily. When Millie realizes who Ms. Grant is, she breaks down and is ready to come out into the open. At this point the boys state: “I say it’s time we acted like men and got some control over our f*cking wives.” They cut off the girl’s bank accounts which doesn’t have the outcome they expected.
Neil Patel set is like a Good Housekeeping magazine Washington DC style, adorned by Jennifer Caprio wonderful period dress.
Towards the end, I found the play preachy but Perfect Arrangement is fighting for a realism blurred in a sitcom filled world. Sooner or later the edges will become sharper and less sanctimonious.
Perfect Arrangement: Primary Stages, The Duke Theater, 229 West 42nd St. until November 6th