Capturing Rudnick’s Wit
The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center (703 S. Second St.) doubles quite nicely as the living room of a posh New York City apartment in RSVP's production of Regrets Only. The illusion isn't perfect, but the feel is distinct enough to make it a more intimate staging than a traditional theater would offer.
Regrets Only, a comedy written by Paul Rudnick, runs through May 30. It stars Mark Hagen as world-famous New York fashion designer Hank Hadley, whose best friend's husband is a wealthy lawyer who has been asked to work on a national ban against gay marriage. Hadley, whose life partner recently passed away, feels obligated to do something about the situation in this fun and poignant comedy.
Hagen is perfect at the center of it all, ably playing both the comic and dramatic ends of the play. In a space as small as the Gay Arts Center, any out-of-place action, intonation or facial expression could be a glaring mistake, but Hagen impressively maintains an authentic emotional level throughout the play.
The rest of the cast also manages to perform well. However, the emphasis on natural rather than artificial acting means Rudnick's not-so-subtle skewering of the upper class doesn't come together quite as vividly as it might. The script maintains respect for the rich while simultaneously making light of their lack of substantial connection to the rest of society. The comic exaggeration of wealthy class stereotypes is somewhat lost to RSVP's more sympathetic portrayal of the characters. The important thing is that all of Rudnick's characteristic wit makes it to the stage with very precise timing. The RSVP cast does an excellent job with the basic mechanics of a thoroughly entertaining show.