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To My Girls

There’s laughter, tears and drag, as three 30’s gay male best friends reunite for a weekend at a rented Palm Springs house in this formulaic genre piece.

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Britton Smith, Jay Armstrong Johnson, and Maulik Pancholy in a scene from Second Stage Theater’s production of J.C. Lee’s “To My Girls” at the Tony Kiser Theater (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Darryl Reilly

Darryl Reilly, Critic

I hear all the gays meet on Instagram now.

That depends on the kind of gay you want to meet.

Smart, hung & employed.

Have you tried praying?

I gave up on God when that bug-eyed lip-syncing straight guy won an Oscar for playing Freddie Mercury.

So representatively parry two characters in author J.C. Lee’s contemporary formulaic gay male-themed play, To My Girls. Mr. Lee has extensive television and stage writing credits and here he demonstrates a professional command of dramatic writing which sustains this 95-minute work. It’s a minor addition to the terrain of Mart Crowley’s pioneering The Boys in the Band and Terrence McNally’s Love! Valour! Compassion! Gather a bunch of imbibing gay men together and watch the sparks fly.

Bryan Batt, Noah J. Ricketts and Maulik Pancholy in a scene from Second Stage Theater’s production of J.C. Lee’s “To My Girls” at the Tony Kiser Theater (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

The very attractive though aging 37-year-old social media-obsessed white Curtis has instigated a post-Covid reunion with his similarly aged best friends at a Palm Springs Airbnb. South Asian American Castor is a struggling writer and Starbucks manager who’s always been besotted with Curtis and there’s the witty African American Leo. They were all close in New York City, Curtis moved to Los Angeles, Castor soon followed him, and Leo has stayed in New York. Bernie, a wise old queen with a Pomeranian named Sophia in honor of The Golden Girls icon, is the owner of the house, living near by. The dramatis personae is completed by a bar pickup and a late-arriving friend bringing crucial revelations.

Lee peppers his worn scenario with plenty of pop, cultural and political references, well-crafted zingers and familiar conflicts. Dating apps, Dancer from the Dance, Sex and the City are among the totems cited and a Trump supporter is declared to be a “MAGA fag.” To My Girls succeeds as a rote genre-piece for a niche audience desiring a simplistic gay play where there’s laughter, tears and resolution in drag danced to The Pointer Sisters. Lee’s thinly drawn characters are highly playable.

Jay Armstrong Johnson, Maulik Pancholy and Britton Smith in a scene from Second Stage Theater’s production of J.C. Lee’s “To My Girls” at the Tony Kiser Theater (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Jay Armstrong Johnson as Curtis, Maulik Pancholy as Castor and Britton Smith as Leo all offer winning characterizations while exhibiting comic timing and dramatic heft. Sunny Noah J. Ricketts as the outsider pickup is vibrantly  charming and Carman Lacivita as the latecomer is forceful. Show business veteran Bryan Batt effortlessly scores as the aged landlord Bernie, landing every laugh possible with his assured delivery and stately presence.

Director Stephen Brackett ably manages the actors and actions on scenic designer Arnulfo Maldonado’s spacious Jonathan Adler-style furnished living room and kitchen area set, with foliage visible through the windows. Jen Schriever’s lighting design is adeptly bright and arresting at nighttime, while Sinan Refik Zafar’s sound design crisply renders the plentiful Brittany Spears-heavy pop music that’s heard. Hawaiian shirts, scanty swimsuits and drag ensembles are the chief components of Sarafina Bush’s authentic costume design.

To My Girls is a stage worthy trifle best enjoyed by those easily entertained by its subject matter.

To My Girls (through April 24, 2022)

Second Stage Theater

Tony Kiser Theater, 305 West 43rd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-541-4516 or visit http://www.2st.com

Running time: 95 minutes with no intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Darryl Reilly
About Darryl Reilly (803 Articles)
A native New Yorker, Darryl Reilly graduated from NYU with a BFA in Cinema Studies. For the Broadway League, (formerly The League of American Theatres and Producers) he developed, and for five years conducted their Broadway Open House Tours, which took visitors through The Theatre District and into several Broadway theaters. He contributed to Broadway Musicals Show by Show: Sixth Edition (Applause Books). Since 2013, he has reviewed theater, cabaret, and concerts for Theaterscene.net.

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