"Newsboy," now playing at the Broadway Cabaret, is a wickedly witty, mod comedy of manners that turns its satirical eye on the gay subculture and its life styles.
The good news from "Newsboy" is that this romantic comedy is done with self-assured humor and without obvious preachment. There are genuinely funny lines and scenes reminiscent of a lesser Neil Simon who has come out of the closet.
The Broadway Cabaret, located in the former home of Way-Off-Broadway at 55 K St. SE. offers a small stage that fills the minimal requirements for this one-set show, which takes place in a New York City apartment, presumably in the Village.
"Newsboy," deals frankly, and sometimes perceptively, with the homosexual experience without voyeurism. The language is raucous and, at times, ribald. On the stage, men embrace and talk about male lovers. But once the context is accepted, these scenes fall naturally into the plot.
The Gay Theatre of New York, a national touring company organized to offer theater dealing openly with the homosexual experience, has brought "Newsboy" to Washington and hopes to follow with another comedy, "A Perfect Relationship." The company is made up of professionals who had theater credits before the Gay Theatre was organized.
Within the framework of a TV newsman's updates on a state senatorial race, "Newsboy" tells the story of Tim, who is coming out as a homosexual at the same time that his mother is running for political office on a platform that includes an anti-gay plank.
The members of the cast work well as an ensemble. They exchange the witty lines without missing a beat or raised eyebrow. As Tim, Richard Burnsed is appealingly naive and confused until he finds the strength of his own self-acceptance. Adam Caparell can toss off a wicked line (On becoming 30: "It doesn't bother me. What little trauma there is will be cleared up by the suicide") and still be affecting as the self-assured, open gay who doesn't want to be the first to "bring out" a confused young man.
Their homosexual friends escape the stereotype mold and become individuals with the performances of Sterling Harper, particularly good as the wisecracker; Charles Stramiello as the political activist; and Randy Bennett as the apartment-sharer with a new grand passion every week.
But the role of the single woman gives "Newsboy" a substance and honesty.Teri Sheridan, a theater pro who returned to the stage a few years ago after raising a family, gives a top-notch performance as Barbara, Tim's mother and the politican whose career is threatened. Arch Brown, the playwright, has not stacked the plot and dialogue to turn her into a mother-figure ogre.
Both Brown's script and the production could profit by some refinement. But "Newsboy" has vitality -- and the humorous self-criticism that comes of assurance and deeply held beliefs.
"Newsboy" is scheduled to run at the Broadway Cabaret until Sept. 28 with performances at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 4 p.m. on Sundays.