THE IRISH VOICE - Wed., May 12, 2010 to Tues., May 18, 2010

When Guys Want to Meet Girls

Guy Walks Into a Bar
By Don Creedon

Review by Cahir O’Doherty

After a shattering divorce, thirtysomething Joe wants to “get back out there” in the dating game. After all, he reasons, he’s still young, he has his urges, and he knows there’s much more to life than work and sleep—it’s just that he’s sorely out of practice when it comes to wooing women.

So where does an eager but timid guy turn to answer love’s call? He turns to the Internet and speed dating, that’s where. And let’s face it, what could be timelier or more impersonal than that? But as usual with the Internet, what you see is rarely ever what you get.

In Guy Walks Into a Bar, Irish playwright Don Creedon’s genuinely hilarious and caustic series of four interlinked new plays about love, lust and dating now playing at the Producer’s Club in New York, the playwright casts a cold eye on the world of men (who are, we learn, prepared to do or say anything in pursuit of their goal, which is love, or failing that, another notch on their bedpost).

People used to talk about the battle of the sexes. In this new era of Dr. Phil and Oprah, that kind of adversarial language has been replaced by reassuring buzzwords like empathy and understanding—but what has actually changed?

In Creedon’s perceptive plays, which are set in any and every corner dive bar in the city, if you scratch the gentleman you instantly reveal the hairy knuckled cave man beneath. All it really takes to uncover the truth is one beer and the prospect of another lonely night at home.

As Joe, the hapless but decent straight man who is desperately trying to change his luck (or at the very least, his batting average) Walter Michael DeForest brings authenticity and real feeling to his role as protagonist.

Joe is a man suddenly adrift in life, with just his dog for company, and no clear plan for the future. When he steps into the local dive bar to meet the woman he’s been corresponding with online he gets cold feet when she looks much less appealing in the flesh.

Taking in Joe’s epic battle with himself are Sam (Bill Rutkoski) and Decco (Wayne Stills). Two cynical, seen-it-all-before barflies, they instantly diagnose Sam’s predicament and offer him even more disastrous solutions.

When men advise men the choice is often between bad and diabolical, and Creedon has enormous fun skewering their pomposity and selfishness. They wise guys, he shows us, think they have life licked. But in reality they’re not waving, they're drowning.

The essence of comedy is the yawning gap between aspiration and reality, and Creedon (whose Bronx based theater company Poor Mouth, has put Irish theater back on the map) navigates it expertly.

Guy Walks Into a Bar is subtle and bitingly funny satire that holds the mirror up to male vanity. Creedon’s wrongheaded characters struggle with their hearts and their heads, and the result is laughter. Marriage, divorce, infidelity, hypocrisy, lies and desperation—they’re all here.

When Joe begins an affair with a married woman on her wedding night, he decides to secretly tag along on her honeymoon too. This is one of the stellar decisions that Creedon’s self-deluded characters often make.

Hoping to stay one step ahead of the game, they end up being pawns that get played. Both Rutkoski and his foil Wayne Stills excel as recognizable city boys whose disastrous advice is only matched by their ruinous behavior.

Creedon excels at pushing his characters past the point of absurdity. When a local bar allows ladies to drink for free between eight and 10, he has Steve and Dessie (Rutkoski and Stills again) buy some wigs and heels and encamp on barstools to freeload. What they lose in personal dignity, they reason, they make up for in freebies.

But their flirtation with the lived reality of the opposite sex has unintended consequences. Suddenly they start seeing the world through women’s eyes, they get in touch with their feelings, and they start to notice the inconsistencies they used to let slide.

It’s amazing, considering how often most men think about women, how little time they actually give to contemplating being one. That central irony powers Guy Walks Into a Bar.

The battle of the sexes still rages, but in Creedon’s four plays (which get deeper and stranger and funnier as they progress) it’s the self-inflicted harm that cuts the deepest.

Guy Walks Into a Bar is playing at the Producer’s Club, 358 West 44th Street, until May 16. For tickets call 212-352-3101.

SHOW BUSINESS WEEKLY - Tues, May 11 to Monday, May 17, 2010


Guy Walks Into a Bar
Written and Directed by Don Creedon

Review by Iris Greenberger

Whether single or married, everyone can remember the trials and tribulations of the dating scene. With great humor, writer and director Don Creedon captures all the lows of looking for a long-term relationship in the comedy Guy Walks Into a Bar. The action centers on Joe, a 30-something Everyman whose confidence has been badly shaken by the breakup of his marriage, as he attempts to get back into the game.

As Joe, Walter Michael DeForest heads up the perfectly cast three-man ensemble. We follow him in four scenes, all set in New York City bars, as he experiments with Internet dating, an affair with a married woman, speed dating and ladies’ night. In each situation, he encounters a different pair of guys, played with impeccable comic timing by Bill Rutkoski and Wayne Stills.

In the first bar, Joe nervously awaits a blind date he met on the Internet. Two bar flies—Sam and Decco—feed on his insecurities by telling him that any woman who would look for a man online must be desperate. Next, he meets Sal and Dommo as all three watch a football game on TV. When Joe admits to having a several-year affair with a married woman whom he can only see when her husband is out of town going to football games, the two question what he is gaining from this lopsided relationship. At the next bar, where Joe waits to participate in a speed-dating event, Shea and Dodo are shocked that he would pay for this kind of singles’ activity. The pair leave him completely flustered as they explain why talking to 12 women for 10 minutes each “goes against the laws of human nature.” The repartee is outrageous and hilarious as they do a series of mock speed dates with him to see if he can handle the difficult questions they are sure the women will ask him later that evening. In the final scene, set in a bar where Joe has stopped in for drinks on ladies’ night, he chats with two very straight looking men—Steve and Dessie—who have dressed as women just to get free drinks. Here, the physical comedy of the pair enhances some very witty dialogue.

All three actors are wonderfully talented and make the most of clever, fast-paced writing. Don Creedon has a spot-on understanding of the dark side of looking for love and has found just the right actors to deliver his message.

BROADWAY AFTER DARK - September 30, 20100

Delicious Dish From a Man's Point of View

Guy Walks Into a Bar
Written and Directed by Don Creedon

Review by Judd Hollander

Most times the phrase "A guy walks into a bar" is the setup for some sort of punch line. However in Don Creedon, hilarious comedy, "Guy Walks Into A Bar" actually is the punch line, and punching bag; as well as title of his wonderfully politically incorrect (and all too true) play about guys in bars, their spirit-distilled thoughts about the fairer sex and the wonderful highs and the emotional lows they experience in the search for the person with which to spend the rest of their life. The show is currently performing upstairs at Ryan’s Daughter’s bar as part of the 1st Irish 2010 Festival. (Creedon also directs the work.)

The play is actually a series of four vignettes, each about 15 minutes in length, set in four different bars over an approximately five-year period. The one constant is a guy named Joe (Walter Michael DeForest), though the pieces could easily be four stand alone stories; all expanded into full-length works, should the author have so chosen.

In the first piece, a very nervous and skittish Joe enters a bar to meet Christine, a girl he connected with via an online dating service. Joe however, is not quite ready to meet this woman and hides at the opposite end of the establishment, between Sam (Bill Rutkoski) and Decco (Mike Pirozzi), two long-time drinking buddies, as he tries to figure out what to do next. Sam and Decco soon learn this is Joe’s first real date in many years, he being into the second year of a trial separation from his wife of nearly a decade. As Joe tries to wrap his head around the situation ("she (Christine) looks so...real") and Sam tries to make time with Christine by sending her free drinks, Sam and Decco begin drawing Joe into a conversation, one which quickly removes any remaining bits of confidence Joe may have left. (It’s time to forget you’ve been stripped of every ounce of self-belief.") They also make derisive comments about internet dating, as well as Joe’s marital status. (The words "emotionally unavailable" are bandied about and Joe’s wife is referred to as his "ex" even though she technically isn’t.) The banter, which contains more than a kernel of truth, is hilarious to watch. Kind of like a "Sex and the City" talk about dating and quickie hook-ups from the male perspective.

The three remaining stories follow pretty much the same pattern, only the specific circumstances, bar and people Joe meets (all played by Rutkoski and Stills) keep changing. (Rutkoski plays Sam, Sal, Shea and Steve; while Pirozzi plays Decco, Dommo, Dodo and Dessie.) Subject discussed include being married to a sportsoholic husband; what to do when your wife is having an affair; is following a lady you love on her honeymoon (with another) going a bit too far; how do you get to know a girl in just ten minutes; is Lady’s Night sexist; and can a "come-hither" glance from someone across the room lead to something more than simply breakfast the next morning? In one of the best sequences, Joe is preparing to begin a night of speed dating when his companions (Shea and Dodo this time) sit him down and force him to answer a series of probing questions as if he were a woman. So by the time Joe goes out on the speed dating circuit, he’s so mixed up he ends up giving answer that would probably get him tossed out on his ear. (It helps tremendously that Rutkoski and Pirozzi play the scene as a pair of dead-pan interrogators, grilling Joe for all he’s worth.) However amidst the show's hilarity are some rather astute and painful observations, giving the piece tinges of poignancy and pathos. (Such as why a man would stay with a woman who cheats ("I love her"); the need we all have to connect with someone special; and how hard it is for some people to move on from a relationship that just doesn’t work.)

DeForest is wonderful as Joe. Both a likeable sort and an emotional train wreck, he just wants to meet Miss (make that "Ms.") Right, but his volatile personal baggage keeps getting in the way; his self-confidence rising and falling with the frequency of a 19th century schooner in a hurricane trying to cross the Atlantic. His constant vulnerability makes him an easy target for the other characters’ machinations, though it should be pointed out that much of his predicaments are of his own making.

Rutkoski is very good as the more domineering of Joe’s two drinking buddies (playing pretty much the same role in every scene, even though the character is different). Completely politically incorrect and the guy most likely to wear a T-shirt with obnoxious pick-up lines, he’s someone most people would probably never want to be around. Still he is so over the top one can’t help but like him in these circumstances, as he continually says things many might agree with but would never dare say aloud.

Pirozzi is fine as the more laid-back (almost a pushover type) of Joe’s two barroom friends, who happily goes along with all of Sam/Sal/Shea/Steve's schemes and rants, yet still has his own occasional flashes of incite. Both Rutkoski and Pirozzi play off each other so well, they’re like a well-oiled team tossing verbal hand grenades at Joe (and through him, the audience); many of which are not seen coming. The two often also add on their own thoughts and ideas to Joe’s situation, whether they're true or not.

Creedon does a decent job as director, keeping the actors tightly reined in and the action moving smoothly and quickly, with verbal, more than physical skills, often carrying the day. Most of the time Rutkoski and Pirozzi are simply sitting on bar stools, with DeForest the one moving back and forth. (An exception to this is the speed dating story.) Having the action take place in an actual bar also gives the play an extra air of authenticity. Costumes by Brooke Cohen are fine and lighting and sound by Rosemarie De Sapio is okay.

Lurking beneath the general hilarity is the quite serious message that in order to meet someone and hopefully live happily ever after, the best one can hope for when starting out is an equal playing field with no expectations. Creedon also seems to be saying that in order to start on this quest, one has to stop hiding behind a façade of glass of beer and an attitude, and not be afraid to take the chance of getting hurt. For if you don’t try, you too might wind up in a bar somewhere...alone. Then again if you meet folks like the ones depicted here things might not be all that bad, at least for a little while.