Chicago Theater Review: THE GLASS PROTÉGÉ (Giant Cherry Productions at Theater Wit)

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by Lawrence Bommer on February 27, 2015

in Theater-Chicago


This retrospective 2010 drama by British playwright Dylan Costello is so well meant, you want to forgive it for its good intentions. But–well–don’t stop the presses! This tale of closeted homosexuals who defy the studios to pursue their love in 1949 Hollywood (and end up divided but not conquered), is formulaically familiar and stiffly expository. Giant Cherry Productions’ new work pulls no surprises out of its old hat. John Nasca’s dogged staging of The Glass Protégé is one more Tinsel Town “forbidden love” story that delivers nothing you couldn’t read in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, the first and last book on a too-told subject.

Only the details feel slightly novel in the lavender longings between Patrick Glass and Jackson Harper. Fresh off the bus from Rockford, Illinois, 24-year-old Patrick (Chazie Bly) is an emerging leading man naïve to the phony make-believe at the heart(lessness) of Hollywood: Patrick exchanges shyness for seduction when he falls hard for studio matinee idol and Southern hunk Jackson Harper (Baird Brutscher). The once but not future lovers meet on the set of the ironically named “Secret Heart” A-film. They soon discover a new reason to repair to Jackson’s trailer between takes. The heartland honey and the Texas tornado may enjoy clandestine trysts at the Boulevard Gala Hotel (full nudity in two scenes)–but what’s the point of being under “house arrest,” even if it’s a mansion in Beverly Hills? As always, scandal is the greater leveler. There’s a reason why bigoted moguls insisted on a “morals clause” in every star’s binding contract.

Forty years later (when the old ‘HOLLYWOODLAND” sign has lost its last four letters), a surviving but still-closeted “protégé” (Tom Chiola), whose last movie came in 1958, clashes with George (Chasen Hunter), Patrick’s son from the woman the studio made him marry (but not love). Ironically, George is trapped in a similarly arranged marriage, his commercial courtship of Ava (Tracey Green), a mail order bride from East Berlin (bad marriages, it seems, come in all forms). But there’s always the hope of a 1989 reunion between Glass and Harper, now reportedly in a nursing home in San Diego. Or is there? Costello works in mysterious ways, his clichés to perform.

All the usual Tinsel Town suspects appear in a plot that writes itself like a software program–the cigar-chomping, hardboiled, profit-minded producer (Christopher Carpenter) who detests “sodomites,” the soulless, thieving gossip columnist from Inquisitor Magazine (Michelle McKenzie, with hats even bigger than Hedda Hopper could handle), and the blonde, semi-suicidal starlet (Britt-Marie Sivertsen) whose putative off-camera romance with Harper runs afoul of her drug-ridden past and some present-day blackmail. Patrick and Jackson, we discover, are just privileged pawns condemned to play every part but themselves. If this sounds like dedicated déjà vu, it verily is.

The Glass Protégé is a love story by default: Everyone else is so loathsome you have to like the lovers. Plucky performers, Nasca’s La-La-Land stereotypes treat their parts with a freshness that defies the dialogue. Their work is worth inspection, but don’t expect to feel a fresh breeze for two hours.

Not least if last: One gay lover idiotically wonders why homosexuals cherish the legend of Judy Garland, considering how “weak” she supposedly was. Excuse me–I think a fantasy check is in order: Dorothy’s friends adore her precisely because she was vulnerable. Yes, she died for her sins but she sang for our sorrows. Drivel like this makes you wonder if The Glass Protégé really means well after all.

The Glass Protégé
Giant Cherry Productions
in association with Glitterati Productions
Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
Thurs-Sat at 7:45; Sun at 3
ends on March 29, 2015
for tickets, call 773.975.8150 visit
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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Milan Vydareny March 2, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Nice review. Exactly the same reaction I had to the play.


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