“The Glass Protégé” at the Park Theatre

A scandalous affair between two leading men in 1940s Hollywood, with the wicked studio system spoiling true love, is the subject of Dylan Costello’s The Glass Protégé. Even if you haven’t seen the play in its previous incarnation, entitled Secret Boulevard, the story seems the familiar stuff of gay folk law. While I don’t doubt the sincerity of the project, it’s clearly a labour of love, but what could be a serious story of passion feels trivial and sometimes dull.

David R. Butler plays Patrick Glass (the name a too transparent metaphor), an Oxford-revisited Englishman matched as a stereotype by a red-necked Texan, performed valiantly by Stephen Connery Brown, with whom he falls in love. Despite brave performances, the script doesn’t allow the leads to convince as film stars or lovers, with a romance that goes from tortured angst, via a Mae West impersonation, to a romp and betrayal, far too quickly.

Joining them, Emily Loomes works hard as Candice, a blonde starlet who isn’t dumb at all (are they ever?), while Mary Stewart, who can clearly hold a stage, has little to do as a bitchy gossip columnist who is, well, just a bitch. The play is fussily structured around flashbacks from the near-present day, which are more satisfactory than the potted history, as the older Patrick (Paul Lavers) deals with his demons and his son (Roger Parkins), along with the play’s only intriguing character, an East German immigrant, played well by Sheena May.

While the cast struggles with the script, director Matthew Gould doesn’t help, showing little thought about the small space worked in or the pace of the piece. The biggest problem, though, is the dialogue. The actors’ lines, surely meant to reflect the ‘garbage’ film they are working on, consist of clichés, platitudes and repetition (Hollywood is nasty – we get it). Exposition is clunky and characters merely vehicles. Attempts at profundity ring hollow time after contrived time and the play’s portentousness becomes tiresome.

Until 9 May 2015

www.parktheatre.co.uk

Photo by Krisztian Sipos

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