Review Roundup: Drew Droege's HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOUG
Happy Birthday Doug - the new comedy written and performed by Drew Droege (the Internet's "Chloë," "Drunk History," "Bob's Burgers," RuPaul's "AJ and the Queen" on Netflix) opened last week at SoHo Playhouse. Happy Birthday Doug is directed by Tom Detrinis (Bright Colors And Bold Patterns) and produced in association with Zach Laks.
Tonight, Doug turns 41. His favorite, and least favorite, gay men have made the invite list: friends, exes, nightmares, tricks, and even a ghost. Happy Birthday Doug is a wicked and wild hour-long celebration of modern gay culture, with tons of wine. Consider this your cordial invitation.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
Tim Teeman, Daily Beast: The characters are pen portraits, and fast and deft ones at that. They are also painfully spot-on. In 60 minutes, we really get to know the catty actor, as well as a smug gay couple, too wrapped up in themselves to notice anything else, and a millennial waiter, too fixed on saying the right thing and not causing offense. There is also a beaky ex, there to judge and diminish, with insecurities on flickering display. And get ready for the ghost of a famous queer too, with languorous wisdom to impart.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, The New York Times: Droege is onto something with these two interlopers, but Christopher and Oscar retreat quickly, and in the end it's unclear what they are meant to say. That the dangerous days of yore were fun, but the "normal" present is at least somewhat safer? Droege's previous show made pretty much the same point, and in a much sharper way. At least we are left with a series of comic diatribes, each of which could stand on its own as a stinging monologue. You might not want to spend a second with these men in real life, but an hour in their theatrical company is more than fine.
David Barbour, Lighting and Sound America: All of these characters and Doug, the birthday boy, are portrayed by the hardworking Droege, who earned a lot of love from critics and audiences a couple of seasons back playing a ticking bomb of a wedding guest in Bright Colors and Bold Patterns. Happy Birthday Doug works a similar vein; it is also more ambitious in the sense that the actor essays so many characters. While his fan base is unlikely to mind, this is a much spottier evening, because the portraits are so variable. The best by far is Jason, who exemplifies Droege's finely tuned ear for conversational inanities. Making a drama out of his so-called journey to sobriety, Jason compares himself to Shia LaBeouf, pausing, just for a second, to note, "I mean, Shia is a great actor -- and kind of a friend of mine." It's not easy to make a confession and name-drop in a single stroke, but he does it with gusto. Also rib-tickling is his account of his "healer," named Debruary Coleman, and his account of hitting rock bottom by staggering into a community theatre production of On Golden Pond and throwing up on cue.