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Martin Foreman

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Reviews of The Benefactor
produced Los Angeles, 1995
to read an excerpt...

With one exception, reviewers hated The Benefactor, the play I wrote based on the story of the same name in A Sense of Loss. I wasn't surprised. Thanks to problems with casting, rehearsal space and an inexperienced production team, the week the play opened - and the week most reviewers saw it - it was nowhere near ready. The Village View came in the third week and saw a vastly improved production. Audiences loved it and numbers had begun to rise by the end of the run, but not by enough to keep it open.
The Benefactor

L.A. Village View
April 11-17, 1995

These days, gay-themed plays seem in ready supply. While many turn out to be forgettable exercises reworking the tired territory of sexual / romantic hang-ups and fulfillments, a few are also perceptive, well crafted and deserving of our attention

Martin Foreman's new play The Benefactor belongs to the latter category. Although its subject matter may not be original, this production possesses enough charm, tension and depth to make it a worthwhile experience.

Three companions are scanning the scene in a gay bar when a mysterious stranger approaches, promising to make their hearts' desires come true. Disbelieving at first, each eventually confesses his innermost wish or fantasy. Derek (C. Sean Kim) dreams about having a relationship with a straight man. Self-conscious Steve (Brian Ferrantino) yearns to be tall, handsome, and admired by everyone. Idealistic Adrian (Rickey-Dean Wasson, who skillfully directs the production) wants simply, and desperately, to fall in love. The first-act stories of how Derek and Steve realize their wishes only to face disillusion serve as prelude and contrast to the far more substantial second act, in which Adrian wonders whether he has found his evasive true love in Patrick (Brendan Hanrahan).

British native Foreman has written his first play based on a suggestion by Wasson. Not surprisingly, the sequences involving the actor/director are the most effective and thoughtfully developed.

In general, the refreshing cast displays talent, subtlety and verve. Kim and Ferrantino deliver convincing portrayals of shallow, sensual Derek and narcissistic Steve, respectively. But it is Wasson who is most memorable as the appealing, romantic Adrian. Thomas Boykin exudes charisma and menace as the seductive benefactor.

The actors' multiethnic backgrounds also lead to some provocative situations and revelations. For example, it's not every day that one sees Asian and Hispanic men, or black and white men, embracing as lovers on stage. To his credit, Foreman has displayed restraint and vision. Not merely exploiting these encounters for their shock or ideological value, he has been able to transcend the color barrier to attain universality by cogently depicting the joys, doubts, and pains existing in all human relationships.
Tony Tran
This review was so good, you might think I'd paid for it, but I swear I'd never heard of Tony Tran before or since.

Los Angeles Reader
15 Apr - 22 Apr 1995

Three lads in a gay bar are approached by a sinister stranger (Thomas Boykin), who offers each a magical wish to make his heart's desire come true. Which bar is this, and where can we find it, you ask? Well, it doesn't matter, because the young men's wishes don't make them any happier.

Certainly, they have no altruistic dreams to bring about peace in Bosnia or end world hunger: Derek (C. Sean Kim) wishes to be desired by a hunky, straight garage mechanic (Leo Berrojo). Steven (Brian Ferrantino) longs to be six feet tall and model-perfect. And Adrian (Rickey-Dean Wasson, who also directs) desires true love.

Almost totally fatuous throughout, Martin Foreman's dramedy is full of structural and directorial missteps. Why doesn't anyone ask the stranger where he comes from and why he's handing out wishes like chocolate kisses at Halloween? The shuffling performers look extremely uncomfortable together, and the clumsily executed romantic scenes are especially unconvincing. more disturbing is the unpleasant tone of sexual self-loathing: Even though this is ostensibly a "gay play," it contains no positive gay characters, and most of them are portrayed as selfish, sex-obsessed, banal twinkies.
Paul Birchall

I don't object to criticism based on fact, but there are too many errors in this review to take it seriously. None of the characters are happier after having their wishes granted? Not true - but you have to think carefully about what has happened before you come to any conclusion. Sex-obsessed? One is, one balances sex with the rest of his life and the third has given up sex. No positive gay characters? Without giving anything away... perhaps one is full of self-loathing, one is very positive; and the third starts out negative, but learns through his experience.

As the phrase goes, 'nuff said.

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