L to R: Royanne Florence, Patrick Michael Dukeman, Sarah Shoshana David, Annamarie MacLeod, Robin Schild, Alison Sacha Ross

REGRETS ONLY: Comedy by Paul Rudnick. Directed by Andrew Nance. New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC), Decker Theatre 25, Van Ness Ave., San Francisco (415) 861-8972. Runs through April 3, 2011


New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) has a justifiable love relationship with Paul Rudnick and his plays that include The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, Valhalla (a smash hit a few years ago) and most recently The New Century. Rudnick has earned many theatrical awards for his plays Jeffrey (and the screen play) and I Hate Hamlet. He is a master of one-line zingers usually eliciting gales of laughter from a gay audience. For good reasons, Regrets Only, billed as a sophisticated comedy of manners with political satire, the laughs are regrettably only sporadic.

The production staff earns raves for their conversion of the intimate Decker Theatre stage into a stunning Manhattan Penthouse (set by Kuo-Hao Lo and costumes by Jorge R. Hernandez) that deserves the “ohs” and “ahs” of the audience. It is the home of Jack (Robin Schild) and socialite wife Tibby McCullough (Sarah Shoshanna David) and their adult daughter Spencer (Annamarie Macleod). The McCullough’s have been married 25+ years and Tibby’s best friend and her clothes designer is gay Hank Hadley (Patrick Michael Dukeman), the most fabulous, famous fashion maven in New York (he tells us so). Jack is a fabulously, famous, successful lawyer (he tells us so) and Spencer, also a lawyer, is living a fabulous life (she tells us so).

Hank’s longtime partner recently died and he is recovering from his mourning to visit his soul-mate Tibby. Early in the play Dukeman and Sarah David, dressed to the nines, have a charming scene discussing regrets with one or the other finishing the others line. They are the personification of sophistication giving their characters depth and verisimilitude. Hyperactive Spencer has big news about being engaged to be married to a handsome, fabulously rich Wall Street tycoon and Hank must create her wedding gown. Jack’s big news is that an unnamed, obviously Republican President, has summoned Jack to Washington to draft a constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage. Spencer will go along to aid him. Hank is offended by Jack and Spenser’s willingness to get involved on the “wrong side” of the same-sex marriage question. Spencer asks the questions of why do straight couples get married and did Hank and his late surgeon partner ever consider marriage? Rudnick is hardly original with this dialog and some of his one- liners are duds.

Rudnick starts the ball rolling in act one with a ubiquitous maid, Myra Kesselman, the “only white Jewish maid in New York” taken directly from a number of TV Sitcoms. Alison Sacha Ross in that role does not have the requisite ability to carry the humor. Her excitable, vocal quality and her multi-dialect entrance and exits become an embarrassment. Rudnick who is Jewish and openly gay, introduces a Jewish mother (Royanne Florence), who is another refugee from TV sitcoms and act two becomes a mishmash of sight jokes and raucous behavior.

Director Andrew Nance does not have the requisite “Noel Coward style” to make Regrets Only another hit play for NCTC and is unable to control Rudnick’s clever plot twist that triggers the turmoil of act two. Consider the consequences if all the gays in the world went on strike for one day and you could write your own act two.

Rudnick gets serious with same-sex marriage question, wisely book ending the play with Hank and Tibby in a quiet get together. Hank concludes that the opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence could have been written by a gay person and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” belongs to all. Running time about 2 hours with intermission.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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