Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: STRAIGHT WHITE MEN Takes In-Depth Look at Importance of Unconditional Love

The West Coast premiere of the production STRAIGHT WHITE MEN written and directed by Young Jean Lee, continues at the Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre through December 20, 2015, presented in collaboration with Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. The four-man cast features Frank Boyd, Richard Riehle, Brian Slaten and Gary Wilmes.

Obie Award-winning playwright Young Jean Lee defies expectations with a conventionally structured take on the classic American father-son drama as seen through the lens of an observer in her thought-provoking and witty new play "Straight White Men" which offers a traditionally structured take on the classic American father-son drama.

After a rather annoying and incredibly loud rap song during the pre-show, we meet Ed and his three adult sons who have gotten together to celebrate Christmas. They enjoy cheerful trash-talking, brotherly pranks and takeout Chinese, but find themselves confronting a problem that even being a happy family can't solve when youngest brother Matt seems upset about something he cannot share with his family. Their unconditional love is what matters when identity and privilege are problematic, for what is the value of being a straight white man if you have no real purpose or goals in life?

What makes the play magical are the four incredible actors who effectively suspend reality and make you feel as if they really are a family as they share remembrances and outrageous behavior only fathers and sons would dare share together. From the moment Ed (Richard Riehle) hands flannel pajamas to his sons on Christmas Eve, demanding they put them on immediately, we become flies on the wall watching the family drama unfold through tears as well as laughter. Youngest son Matt (Brian Slaten) has moved back home, seemingly putting aside his Harvard education to act as his Dad's caregiver, even though Ed seems perfectly capable to take care of himself. More successful brothers Jake (Gary Wilmes) and Drew (Frank Boyd) are befuddled as to why their brilliant brother would chose to take a temp job doing clerical work for a non-profit when his lofty and privileged upbringing and education should have prepared him to be the head of a multi-million dollar enterprise.

But for some reason, Matt has no interest in pursuing the American Dream like most straight white men and has chosen to live a more simple life, even though he must now struggle to pay off his student loans. And just why won't he accept money from his father to pay off those loans? It's a mystery never solved just as the only resolution of the play is when Ed throws Matt out, telling him it's time to move on. But again, that's about as close to a resolution you will get, which will lead to great discussions in the theater lobby with other audience members after the show as you share your thoughts and insights into the theme and meaning of the play.

Brian Slaten presents Matt as a loving son and brother, the kind of man who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. When his emotional breakdowns occur, Slaten easily sinks into the deep depression/confusion that is tormenting poor Matt, with his flow of tears taking little away from his masculinity. Boyd and Wilmes share the easy chemistry of brothers who love each other unconditionally and love to torment each other with unforgiving childhood memories, even sharing their own secret handshake and cleverly adapted songs. And it is easy to see how fun-loving father Ed is the perfect companion for his sons, especially after Richard Riehle joins in their comedic dancing. These four are the kind of family you will wish was part of your own!

Lee is a renowned playwright who experiments with theatrical forms in a continual effort to, in her words, "get past audiences' defenses against uncomfortable subjects and open people up to confronting difficult questions by keeping them disoriented and laughing." She has absolutely succeeded with STRAIGHT WHITE MEN.

Tickets are available online at, by calling CTG Audience Services at (213) 628-2772, in person at the Center Theatre Group box office (at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles) or at the Kirk Douglas Theatre box office two hours prior to performances. Performances take place at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, located at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City, CA 90232. Ample free parking is available in the City Hall underground parking structure with many restaurants adjacent along Washington and Culver Blvd.

Photos by Craig Schwartz

Ed and his sons celebrate Christmas Eve dressed in new pajamas, eating Chinese takeout food.

(L-R: Richard Riehle, Gary Wilmes, Frank Boyd and Brian Slaten)

L-R: Gary Wilmes, Frank Boyd, Richard Riehle and Brian Slaten

Ed has a heart-to-heart chat with his son, Matt L-R: Richard Riehle and Brian Slaten

L-R: Frank Boyd and Brian Slaten

L-R: Frank Boyd and Richard Riehle

L-R: Gary Wilmes, Frank Boyd and Brian Slaten

L-R: Gary Wilmes and Brian Slaten

L-R: Brian Slaten (seated), Gary Wilmes and Frank Boyd

L-R: Gary Wilmes, Frank Boyd, Richard Riehle and Brian Slaten

L-R: Richard Riehle and Gary Wilmes

BroadwayWorld Logo Vote Now for the 2022 BroadwayWorld Los Angeles Awards
Vote Nowvoting ends in

Interview: Melissa Errico Joyously Radiating Her EVERGREEN HOLIDAY At Feinsteins @ Vitello Photo
Fresh from her Carnegie Hall debut last month, Tony-award nominee Melissa Errico brings her holiday show Evergreen Holiday to Feinstein’s at Vitello’s December 21st and 22nd. Accompanied by a jazz trio led by Randy Waldman, Melissa’s special guest Jon Lovitz will join in on the storytelling that has made Melissa a favorite New York Times contributor.

The Progressive Contemporary Dance of Gibney Company To Make Los Angeles Debut at USC Photo
Visions and Voices, USC's premiere arts and humanities program, will present the Gibney Company on Friday, January 20, 2023. The world-class, New York-based contemporary dance company's performance at historic Bovard Auditorium is free and open to the public.

El Portal Theatre Presents Three Special Shows For The Holidays! Photo
El Portal Theatre presents three special shows to celebrate the holidays onstage at the historic El Portal Theatre Debbie Reynolds Mainstage, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in the NOHO Arts District, North Hollywood, CA.

Free CHARACTER TRANSFORMATION WORKSHOPS: With World Renown Acting Teacher Giles Foreman An Photo
Free three hour character transformation workshops with world renown acting teacher Giles Foreman will be held in person in New York City and Los Angeles. 

From This Author - Shari Barrett

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in secondary sc... (read more about this author)

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLESInterview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES
December 7, 2022

The Actors' Gang is excited to present their family friendly holiday show, Shambles, an unbridled concoction of seasonal charm and sassy cunning all rolled up in a cirque-infused panto, blurring the lines between audience and performers. When I read that this immersive experience will drop theater goers into a 60's NASA holiday party complete with alien abductions, ugly Christmas sweaters, and free-flowing champagne offered as theatergoers meander through curated rooms of wonder, I knew I had to speak with the production's creator and director, Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves about his vision to bring such fun family fare to the stage.

Interview: Playwright Jim Leonard on the L.A. premiere of ANATOMY OF GRAYInterview: Playwright Jim Leonard on the L.A. premiere of ANATOMY OF GRAY
November 17, 2022

Jim Leonard has published eight plays, including The Diviners, And They Dance Real Slow in Jackson, and Battle Hymn, with his theatrical honors including the Outer Critics Circle Award, an Ovation Award, the Dramatists Guild Award, and an LA Weekly Award for best play.

Interview: Shawn Lefty Plunkett on presenting the West Coast premiere of John Mabey's A COMPLICATED HOPEInterview: Shawn Lefty Plunkett on presenting the West Coast premiere of John Mabey's A COMPLICATED HOPE
November 15, 2022

John Mabey's three-person play A Complicated Hope centers around Marie and her daughter Rose Marie who are left adrift after their husband and father, Michael, passes away. But it's how he leaves that alters the lives of the family forever, especially after they meet Arnie, Michael's boyfriend. Mirroring the erratic path of grief itself, A Complicated Hope flashes between the moments in time that changed them all, exploring the challenges of both finding a family of choice and letting yourself be found. Earlier this year, Kentwood Players presented a reading of Mabey's play in which Shawn Lefty Plunkett portrayed the role of Arnie. I was curious to find out what led to his decision to produce the fully-staged West Coast premiere of A Complicated Hope as well as take on the role of Arnie again.

Interview: Anne Marie Ketchum, Founding Artistic Director of the Verdi Chorus, on their Upcoming VERDI PUCCINI FESTInterview: Anne Marie Ketchum, Founding Artistic Director of the Verdi Chorus, on their Upcoming VERDI PUCCINI FEST
October 30, 2022

As an early holiday present for opera lovers, On November 12 and 13, the Verdi Chorus’ 39th season culminates with a Verdi Puccini Fest for two performances only at the First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica. Under the direction of Founding Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, who promises the program will include “some of the most exciting moments from two of the greatest operatic composers who ever lived,” I decided to speak with her on its inception, creation, and what makes the Verdi Chorus such a special part of our city.

Interview: Playwright Cyndy A. Marion on the West Coast Premiere of BROKEN STORYInterview: Playwright Cyndy A. Marion on the West Coast Premiere of BROKEN STORY
October 28, 2022

A serial killer's backstory always seems to fascinate people more so than that of their prey. But what is it about these vicious murderers that inspires works of art being written about them? That question popped into my head when I heard about the West Coast premiere of Cyndy A. Marion's play Broken Story, which was inspired by the murder of writer Susan Berman and her close relationship with serial killer Robert Durst. I knew I wanted to find out what inspired Cyndy to create the play and how she conducted her research.