Life is certainly complicated for poor Elaine “Lainie” Fairbanks (portrayed by playwright Jeffrey Vause) in Tomorrow We Love, a ditzy but good-hearted woman “of a certain age and stature,” whose husband has left her for his secretary and whose daughter Trippy (Kim Krane) can’t keep her grades up or her legs together. Trippy’s boyfriend Logan (Maya Bassuk) is a dropout with a two-track mind (Trippy and football) who can’t find a job. Lainie’s “best friend” Lucille (Jimmy Moon) and her lawyer husband Sid Spellman (Lenys Samá) are conspiring to separate her from her hefty alimony along with hired hunk Farley Weathers (Ben Van Berkum). Lainie tries to keep it together with the help of her sleeping pills and Drambuie but ultimately the plot still thickens, elicit kisses exchanged, shots are fired and Lainie ends up on the witness stand with pleas of “I didn’t kill him, I swear I didn’t kill him! Your honor, members of the jury – you simply must believe me!!”
There is plenty of over-the-top acting, physical antics and far-fetched story lines, all perfectly acceptable ingredients for a zany gender-bending farce. The only thing missing are the laughs. Even the high school-quality set design by Ryan Goff and delightful costumes by Jimmy Moon are on par for this campy send-up of a 1950’s rom-com. Ultimately, Vause’s script reads funnier than it plays, so there is more amiss than the smoking gun in this screwball comedy.
Vause as Lainie shows promise as a mature drag ingenue, and he pulls plenty of humorous tricks out of his handbag; however, they sometimes seem predictable, uninspired and too dead-pan. Sama’s portrayal of the greasy lawyer Sid is overplayed even for this wacky story, bludgeoning the cast and audience with his loud, overbearing manner. Bassuk’s turn as Trippy’s boyfriend Logan is committed enough, but her lines have too many football gags and the character becomes tiresome. All the tripping Krane does as Trippy just doesn’t garner enough chuckles, nor do the performances by Moon and Van Berkum, although they all give their best efforts.
Did the actors try too hard, or not try enough? It’s hard to tell; there are some funny moments and lines in this script, and even a good story arc, but ultimately the direction by Grant Neale doesn’t focus the actors’ comic timing well enough to bring the lines, moments or performances to their full potential.
There’s plenty of room on the stages of New York City for gender-bending plays like Tomorrow We Love. Not every Charles Busch play is a triumph, so the creative team is encouraged to continue working in this genre. There is potential, just not quite realized in this production.
Tomorrow We Love (through March 14, 2020)
Proud Image Theatre Company
Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue, in Manhattan
For tickets visit https://www.tomorrowwelove.com/
Running time: one hour and 50 minutes including one intermission