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Alternative Romp Into Pre-Parenthood

May 28, 1999|PHILIP BRANDES

The prospect of raising a child threatens the hard-won stability of a gay relationship in "Parental Discretion," Gary Goldstein's agreeable if sitcom-like follow-up to "Just Men" at the Coast Playhouse.

When last we saw screenwriter Brian (a convincing Woody Brown, reprising the central role), he'd finally confessed his sexual orientation to his disapproving, bigoted father. This time around, Brian must contend with his partner's (Craig Woolson's) pressure to acquire a baby, and the return of Dad (John Aniston)--whose closet installation business has just failed, prompting the typically glib "I guess closets have no place for any of us."

Time and casting changes have softened Dad--compared to Robert Mandan's caustic original portrayal, Aniston is more sympathetic, though less effective as a narrative opponent.

Charismatic Alex Datcher returns as Brian's perpetually single, smart, gorgeous friend, and while less pivotal to the plot this time around, she still enlivens with her presence and assured delivery. Also effective is Janet Carroll as Dad's newfound romantic interest, the tolerant mother of one of Brian's lesbian neighbors (Maureen Dempsey, Hilaire Lockwood).

Playwright Goldstein's strengths lie in intimate confessional exchanges, though too often he grabs for the easy punch line instead of the emotionally true moment. This under-serves the greater depth he's written into these characters, but director Richard Kline skillfully integrates both the glossy banter and the more reflective scenes in an upbeat, enjoyable romp through the anxieties of pre-parenthood--stopping short of the actual responsibilities.

*

* "Parental Discretion," Coast Playhouse, 8325 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. (June 6 and 20, 7 p.m.); dark June 13. Ends June 20. $22-$25. (323) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.

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