At the Celebration Theatre, Michael Van Duzer's popular comedy "Hopeful Romantic" could be subtitled "Princes in America." A gay love story modeled on Hollywood escapist fare, it happily roams an urban Never-Never Land where disease and death never materialize. Rather than fearing the grim reaper, Duzer's phobic romantic anxiously obsesses that his prince will someday come . . . and then what?
Friends warn the play's self-absorbed "lonely intellectual" that "it's dangerous to ignore your body's needs." So Alan searches for Mr. Right in "the phallo-centric world," muttering at times that "I know I'm acting like Juliet before the potion, but. . . ." When in doubt, he seeks counsel from fantasy guardians Alexander the Great and Oscar Wilde.
This device recalls Woody Allen's "Play It Again, Sam." But Allen's Humphrey Bogart apparition worked. Here, the interruptions by inaccurately sketched historical figures prove unrewarding. "Hopeful Romantic" doesn't need such structural gimmicks. What it needs is a dramatically earned resolution.
Otherwise, this contemporary fairy tale is charming and amusing. The production is graced with an ingratiating lead performance by Todd R. Hansen, split-second staging by Van Duzer, and impressive acting--especially by Timothy Douglas and Michael Scott Shaw as the gay couple who find true love.
\o7 *"Hopeful Romantic," Celebration Theatre, 7051 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sundays, 7 p.m. Ends June 26. $15. (213) 660-TKTS. Running time: 2 hours.\f7