Primary Stages presents the story of two gay U.S. State Department employees in 1950 who have been tasked with identifying "sexual deviants" within their ranks. More…
It's 1950 and new colors are being added to the Red Scare. Federal employees Bob and Norma are gay, and have married each other’s partners as a carefully constructed cover. Now they are being asked to investigate and name the homosexuals in their department. Inspired by the true story of the earliest stirrings of the American gay rights movement, madcap 'I Love Lucy' sitcom-style laughs give way to provocative drama as two All-American couples are forced to stare down the closet door, confronting the very struggles facing society today.
"Perfection is the only word that can describe Primary Stages’ 'Perfect Arrangement.' Somehow, a show set in the 1950s is fun, contemporary and completely relevant to today. Topher Payne’s script engages, makes you laugh, and also cry, as you follow the lives of Bob and Norma and their seemingly perfect marriages...The entire cast does a wonderful job of pulling you in. You leave, forever changed, viewing the world today just a bit differently than you did before." Full Review
"'Perfect Arrangement' is, well, a nearly perfect arrangement. Check your ordered brain cells at the door and buckle your seat belts...This is an extraordinary play that pulls you into an argument you might just as soon avoid...In 'Perfect Arrangement' we meet some of the people on whose shoulders we ride. This is a play that makes you want to go back and thank them. And once that is over, pull up a pitcher of martinis and have a serious sartorial discussion." Full Review
"Topher Payne’s incredibly smart, funny, and remarkably topical comedy is now being presented under Michael Barakiva’s excellent direction...Payne not only writes clever yet realistic dialogue, but it’s a real joy to watch how his four main characters add depth and dimension as the evening progresses...The end result is at once surprising and inevitable. Isn’t that just perfect?" Full Review
"This is a beautifully crafted piece. It feels authentic and hits home without resorting to histrionics or novelty...To Director Michael Barakiva’s credit, his couples seem genuinely natural, both romantically and in physical clinches. Every actor has illuminating personal attributes. The stage and props are imaginatively used. Timing is adroit, mining the piece as skillfully for comedy as drama." Full Review
"The sitcom tone smoothly transitions into something more serious and rebellious. 'Perfect Arrangement' is beautifully structured like an episode of I LOVE LUCY that never would have aired. Under Michael Barakiva's snappy direction, the nutty twists and turns are played with crisp comic panasche instead of as a parody, by a terrific ensemble." Full Review
"'Perfect Arrangement' is a witty and engrossing well-made play in its depiction of a life style that now seems foreign in an age of same-sex marriages and openly gay heroes and icons. However, the ending in which the author presupposes a gay civil rights movement, circa 1950, does not ring historically true. Nevertheless, up until the ending, 'Perfect Arrangement' is taut, humorous and absorbing in its use of the most popular dramatic form of the 1950’s, the well-made play." Full Review
"Playwright Topher Payne and director Michael Barakiva know exactly what they're doing. The domestic comedy hijinks at the start of their production make all the more poignant their eventual ruminations on all the obstacles—including shame and self loathing—that had to be overcome before gay people could stand up for their rights and openly tell their stories...Payne's well-constructed play sheds valuable light on that era. " Full Review
"Usually a playwright has to choose between writing a laugh-out-loud comedy and a very serious drama. Topher Payne has written both with 'Perfect Arrangement.' With a stellar cast and zippy direction, this 1950s sitcom-style comedy set during the Lavender Scare (in which sexual 'deviants' were targeted for dismissal from federal employment) manages to keep us in hysterics even as the circumstances become no laughing matter." Full Review
"Topher Payne’s moving comedy, 'Perfect Arrangement,' will appeal to a broad audience with its sharp dialogue and beautiful visuals, and that’s important, because this plucky piece of theater is a Trojan horse delivering a complicated conversation about gender equality, LGBTQ rights and personal shame...The play feels meticulously well-crafted under the direction of theater director, Michael Barakiva, with quick changes and rapid entrances galore." Full Review
"An attractive and engaging curiosity...How long they will remain complicit in order to maintain their secret lives is the moral dilemma that gives the 'Perfect Arrangement' unexpected power. It’s lovely to look at — and treacherous as hell." Full Review
"Mr. Payne is a deft and witty writer...Under Michael Barakiva’s direction, the cast is uniformly appealing and mostly able to negotiate the tonal sashays that the script demands...But so much of the play is so quick and so quippy and so very near farce that more serious discussions of rights and responsibilities don’t land." Full Review
"Zestfully directed by Michael Barakiva, the play zips along merrily up until the moment when the quartet faces exposure. At this juncture, Payne’s script loses some of its bubbliness and veers toward the pedantic as Payne attempts to make grand statements about gay self-loathing and complicity in persecution. Despite this shift in tone, the production overall proves difficult to resist." Full Review
"This is an imperfect 'Perfect Arrangement' -- sometimes sharply witty, sometimes almost leaden in its moralizing, and sometimes too silly for words. It doesn't help that the play climaxes with a come-to-Jesus finale in which too many characters successively realize that honesty is the best policy." Full Review
"The setup is an excellent one...Unfortunately the writing and direction diffuse much of the impact by hitting too hard, placing a distracting emphasis on broad, sometimes farcical comedy that's not funny enough to sustain itself and begins to feel strained...It generates a few good laughs, but, for the most part, cheats the characters of reality, making them seem like abstractions.." Full Review
"Contrivances build up, and the ending veers into righteousness. What looked like a 1950s sitcom turns out to be a 1980s sitcom in disguise, capped with liberal messages to applaud. But 'Perfect Arrangement' moves quick and looks nifty. Better yet, it features a pair of really capital performances. Even when the play seems overarranged, they are damn near perfect." Full Review
"There's much that's entertaining and thought-provoking about 'Perfect Arrangement,' but it would be better if Payne didn't himself discard Kitty's lesson so readily. He may have happened on a compelling way to immerse us within the mores of a different time. But by working too hard to connect that era to ours, he forgot that all revolutionaries, like all housewives, are not easily categorized." Full Review
"At its best, Payne’s play tells the story of the government’s persecution of gay people in the 1950s by borrowing giddily from a 1950’s sitcom like 'I Love Lucy...' But the play ultimately stumbles...There is a shift in tone, from comic to gravely serious. That would not be a problem if the resolution of the play were not so self-satisfied and implausible." Full Review
"Payne hasn't quite managed to make the funny and serious elements coexist comfortably. As the play progresses there's an increasing sense that he's still deciding what kind of play he wants to write...When 'Perfect Arrangement' strays into more and more into serious territory it becomes rather unbalanced. In fact, it ends up on the preachy side." Full Review
"On the surface, 'Perfect Arrangement' appears to be a hard-hitting look back at a period in America when fear of the other manifested itself hideously. Certainly, if 'Perfect Arrangement' had materialized then, it would have been. The thing is, however, that it wasn't written 65 years ago...In the play's belatedly timely circumstances, Barakiva's cast members acquit themselves well, although he might not have encouraged them to behave so much like cartoon characters during the opening scene." Full Review
See it if great story, humor, acting, & characters. My friends and I have taken to calling it "the best play-no qualifiers." I can't praise it enough.
Don't see it if you have a very conservative sense of humor
See it if you want a hilarious play that turns on a dime to become a heart-wrenching drama that is all too close to home
Don't see it if you don't want to be depressed by finding out that many of the issues that were present then are still prevalent today
See it if you want to see a hilarious play about a subject that's rarely talked about that also makes you think
Don't see it if you're not a fan of shows with stressful situations
See it if you are willing to be a champion of change, freedom, and choice. Smart, complex, well written and nicely acted. Great.
Don't see it if you think great theater needs to have a movie star in it. The actors here are off-bway masters and each offer a must-see performance
See it if you're looking for an entertaining evening of 1950s style (dialogue, costumes, setting) with an edge. The cast is fantastic.
Don't see it if you can't get past a few well-intentioned cliches. The ending is heartfelt and true to the style of the piece, but a bit cliched.
See it if You like getting tense with anticipation, knowing things as an audience member that some characters don't know.
Don't see it if You don't want to be immersed (through decor, costumes, dialogue) in the period in which the show takes place.
See it if You enjoy dramedies about relationships and stories about the LGBT community and what they faced back in the 1950s.
Don't see it if You don't like stories focusing on the LGBT community.
See it if you like polished plays and don't mind a problematic script. The premise is great, but the tone careens from flippant/humorous to serious.
Don't see it if you need more than a gorgeous set/costumes and strong performances. The look at 1950 gay relations gets muddied. Disappointing.
See it if it's a great play. Really well acted. None of the actors stand out as being the weakest link so the flow is never broken. Fabulous costumes!
Don't see it if ending is self righteous, hard to believe and, in historical terms, misguided. Some shows think that a sad ending makes them more serious.
See it if you like safe plays. You want to consider LGBT issues through an old-fashioned lens. You like 50's-60's fashion.
Don't see it if The performances were just OK. The ideas never really came together for me in spite of some entertaining moments. The sitcom part fell flat.
See it if you enjoy campy comedies with serious themes.
Don't see it if you want a fully realized play. The playwright hasn't decided if he wants this play to be a farce or something more serious.
See it if You are interested in a brand new voice talking about American History that went largely overshadowed-but has incredible relevance today
Don't see it if You are a conservative republican.
See it if great writing and acting present a shameful time in our history; its touching, educational, entertaining and laced with humor
Don't see it if you have no empathy
See it if You want to see a well written, funny and engaging play that explores themes of authenticity and the perils of duplicity.
Don't see it if Mixed tone comedies are not your thing.
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