The sun is out- along with some sharp claws- in JC Lee’s comedy To My Girls. The story of a gay getaway in Palm Springs is neatly packaged into 90 minutes at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theatre and for the most part, is has quite a bit of insightful commentary about the LGBTQ+ community.
Curtis (Jay Armstrong Johnson), Leo (Britton Smith), Castor (Maulik Pancholy), and Jeff (Carman Lacivita) are long-time friends who met years earlier in a Brooklyn nightclub. Making up for lost pandemic time, they rent an Airbnb house from Bernie (Bryan Batt), an older queen who once performed drag at the local gay bar as “Anita Job.” Like most friend gatherings, copious amounts of alcohol are consumed, and long repressed drama starts spilling out.
Lee sprinkles this romp with plenty of snappy one-liners, but also laces it with brutal honesty. Truths about unique lived experiences are shared without sanctimony and a deeper exploration of gay friendships are exposed. He excoriates the smug woke brigade through Bernie. “I know what it’s like to not be able to say what I think without being attacked or made to feel that by virtue of who I am I must be wrong,” Bernie says, after his voting preference is revealed. Later he adds, “The remarkable thing about your generation is your insistence everyone be accepting of all people up until you disagree.” Despite the fights, the friendships endure.
Where the play falls short is through depictions of broad gay stereotypes. Do we don caftans and wigs while we drink and lip sync to the latest pop divas? Are we obsessed with capturing the flawless Instagram picture? Are we all either oversexed or depressed because few will give us a second glance? Are we all perfectly fit and beautiful?
Of course not. Nonetheless, not of it is offensive enough to adopt an emotional support animal or start a “Cancel JC Lee” campaign. These are his words and his creation.
Director Stephen Brackett (currently directing Broadway’s flawless A Strange Loop), has created a solid cocktail of camaraderie through his believable cast. Arnulfo Maldonado’s sun-soaked set is so perfect with its “Jonathan Adler aesthetic” that one might consider residency on the Kiser stage. (stage manager Brian Bogin may frown on that, however.) At its core, To My Girls is joyful celebration of truly being yourself and valuing those around you who have contributed to that joy.
To My Girls is now playing at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater (305 W. 43rd between 8th and 9th, NYC) through April 24th. For tickets and information, click here.