In this newspaper seven years ago, at the apex of the Queer Eye metrosexual moment, the writer and editor Tom McGeveran introduced that archetype’s inversion: the shmomosexual. Shmomosexuals, he wrote, were (and are) gay men who behave like Joe Shmo straight men, “who use the same moisturizer for their hands and face, if they use it to ‘moisturize’ at all.” Shmomosexuals are out of the closet, sure, but they’re also out of shape and, quite likely, out of clean underwear.
In The Kid, the new Off Broadway musical drawn from Seattle sex columnist Dan Savage’s 1999 memoir of adopting a son with his boyfriend, which opened at Theatre Row in a New Group production Monday night, Savage is portrayed (by the very winning Broadway vet Christopher Sieber) as perhaps the quintessential shmomosexual.
Costumed in a ratty T-shirt and baggy jeans, with messy hair and a conspicuous potbelly, Savage is amiable, sloppy and something of a homebody. I have not read the book, and I don’t know how much this comports with the real Mr. Savage-in photos, he appears to be toned and carefully coiffed-but it serves here to underline the universal themes of what has the potential to be dismissed as yet another gay play. This Kid doesn’t harp on politics-straight couples can just have kids; this gay couple must submit to interviews and home inspections and approval-and instead presents Savage and his younger, hotter boyfriend, Terry (played by Lucas Steele in tight jeans and shirt, with layered and highlighted hair and a weakness for Björk), as a pair of regular Joes facing hurdles both procedural and neurotic as they endure the process of adoption.
But that portrayal of Savage also serves as a convenient metaphor. The Kid, like its protagonist, is a bit of a shmomosexual: charming and very likable, but also shambling and out of shape.
Michael Zam’s script is often very funny and can occasionally be moving; the songs, with music by Andy Monroe and lyrics by Jack Lechner, are at their best tuneful and witty (“Gore Vidal,” about Dan and Terry bonding over a love for gay literature, is sweet and funny; the opening song, “I’m Asking You,” is a nice encapsulation of Savage’s sex-columnist existence). And, as directed by Scott Elliott, the large cast-the two leads, plus Jill Eikenberry as Savage’s mom and another eight actors in what must be a few dozen roles-give fine, energetic performances.
But at two and a half hours (including intermission), with 22 musical numbers and that mess of characters, there is a lack of focus. The result is always clear-they’ll get the kid, and Savage, despite his worries, will bond with it-and, by the second act, the accumulated, sure-to-be-surmounted crises can seem tedious. Songs become after-school-special clichés. Ms. Eikenberry sings, unnecessarily, about knowing her son was gay when he adored Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and loving him anyway. The show’s final note-”I want him to know he has two dads, and that he knows we’re the guys who are there for him, no matter what”-seems lifted from a Hallmark card.
The Kid could use work, but what shmomosexual doesn’t? It’s got a good heart; it just needs to be trimmed down and polished up.