by Charles C Bales · August 26, 2015
When a pointed on-air question from a conservative talk show host humiliates a gay teenaged boy, all h-e-double hockey sticks breaks loose in God Gaffe.
The show’s protagonist is based on Elisabeth Hasselback, with whom she shares not only a background as a contestant on a Survivor-like reality show and a New England upbringing, but also co-hosting duties on a nationally syndicated TV program (i.e., The View) where as the lone conservative voice she butts heads with the two liberal panelists.
Now playing as part of FringeNYC 2015 at the Sgouros Theatre in Greenwich Village, the 90-minute drama takes place entirely in the office of the show’s producer. The first half occurs immediately following the polarizing incident, and the second half the day after, when the recalcitrant TV personality begrudgingly offers an on-air apology, then steps back into the muck by debating with her co-hosts whether homosexuality is a lifestyle choice (her opinion) or biologically determined (theirs).
These are heady topics for anyone to tackle, but John William Schiffbauer — doing double duty as writer and director — hasn’t really risen to the challenge. God Gaffe is filled with diatribe instead of dialogue, truisms rather than truthfulness. As hard as the actors try to digest the mouthfuls the playwright has fed them, the whole thing comes off as inauthentic and rather tedious.
Would Patricia, a bulldog in lipstick and heels prone to saying “gosh darn” and “mother trucker,” really not understand the need to atone for her treatment of an innocent 15-year-old boy, regardless of her own beliefs? Would Brett, her gay producer with a penchant for F-bombs, really be such close friends with the ultra-right-wing “Pattycakes,” who has a six-year history of incendiary on-air comments?
The two actors bringing these characters to life — Hannah Beck and Vincent Torres — try very hard to bring nuance to their roles. Ms. Beck as the prickly Patty, the much juicier role, fares better than Mr. Torres as the lackluster Brett. But the Fox News-baiting script doesn’t allow either of them much room to breath, as they haphazardly dart in an out of futile arguments, slowing down on occasion to explicate their glaringly obvious positions.
An unnecessary intermission (as there is no set change) derails what little momentum the play has, and an underwritten psychologist boyfriend for Brett (played by Tom Giordano) only further muddy the narrative’s already considerably murky waters.