The Prodigal Father

Those worried that Larry Dean Harris' breezy drama about a gay playwright and his bigoted, Alzheimer's-addled father might have something to do with terminal brain disease can rest easy. The soul-destroying illness is little more than the thinnest of medical MacGuffins in a story whose true subject is the sometimes-paradoxical ways in which codes of masculinity are transmitted and reified in male bonds. For Bible Belt–bred stage scribe Jamey Sanders (Allain Rochel), that means the same hypermacho traits so reviled in Earl (Max Gail), Jamey's estranged, Korean War–veteran bear of a father, are precisely what attracts him to Nick (Joe Rose), his older, construction-worker bear of a lover. When the memory-challenged Earl unexpectedly flees his Tennessee convalescent home and lands on the gay couple's Chicago doorstep, Jamey must resolve long-deferred Oedipal issues if he is to both hold onto Nick and effect the story's bizarre reconciliation while Earl still has half a mind. Along the way, Harris offers the unseemly narrative novelty of employing Earl's spells of dementia as dramatic flashbacks to some metaphorically murky coon hunts from Jamey's childhood. Nevertheless, brisk direction by Michael Matthews and strong performances from a veteran cast (Josette DiCarlo is particularly fine doubling as the boys' flamboyantly flirty friend and Jamey's deceased mother) make it an entertaining ride. Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through April 26. (323) 957-1884.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: March 27. Continues through May 2, 2009

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