Boys will play

We Are Family

Allan Miller, Charles Dean and Matt K. Miller horsing around in <i>We Are Family</i>: Kids, don’t try this at home.

Allan Miller, Charles Dean and Matt K. Miller horsing around in We Are Family: Kids, don’t try this at home.

Rated 4.0

I’ve said it before: It’s not hard to spot a sex farce, even at the outset. We Are Family—which wraps up the current season at the Sacramento Theatre Company—has all the trappings. The lights come up on a swanky hotel room with multiple doors, a wet bar and a comfy sofa for seduction. And playwright Murray Schisgal (Tootsie) doesn’t mess around—the central character starts the play wearing undershorts.Where We Are Family departs from formula is the manner of romance. Frustrated playwright Sam Kogan (Allan Miller) is soon dishing up a rehash of middle-aged male angst about aggressive feminists, changing gender roles and the futility of traditional marriage.

It’s an old, reheated argument, padded with a few blunt references to male and female body parts. You probably couldn’t say those things on Broadway in the days when Schisgal was a young turk—but the effect now seems awkwardly at odds with his otherwise smooth sequence of one-liners and comebacks.

Fortunately, Schisgal moves on once he’s set up this premise: The playwright, after multiple divorces and failed affairs, is giving up on romance with women and is thinking of giving men a try. While Kogan is drawn to the idea of a happy relationship, he’s still having trouble feeling sexually attracted to men, and comic encounters quickly ensue as he tries to sort things out.

Artistic director Peggy Shannon—working with an out-and-out comedy for the first time during her tenure here—has assembled a solid cast of four. Miller and Charles Dean do well as successful career men with serious complaints about wives and ex-wives, while Matt Miller (Arms and the Man) does a hilarious reverse as an eager-to-woo convert to the gay lifestyle. Cynthia Mace (Harper in the first L.A. production of Angels in America) is determined, controlled and more honest than any of the men in this story.

The play has a curiously sentimental undercurrent that emerges full-blown in the unlikely ending. It’s an odd conclusion, and not entirely believable if you think about it, though Shannon diverts your attention and makes it work onstage.