Tuc Watkis, Peter Scolari and Christy Carlson Romano in White's Lies.
BOTTOM LINE: Like a romantic comedy starring a post-How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days Matthew McConaughey, this two-act comedy boasts big name talent, few laughs and even fewer surprises but (like a romantic comedy starring a post-How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days Matthew McConaughey) is enjoyable nonetheless.
It is my personal philosophy that deep down, there are few things that feed a gal’s soul more than sitting down to a mindless, light romantic comedy filled with cheap laughs, hot bodies and a predictably happy ending. If you’re openly (or secretly, for that matter) from the same school of thought and have been waiting with breath that is bated for a staged version of the aforementioned genre, then look no further than New World Stage’s newest installment, White's Lies.
White's Lies is your typical “eternal bachelor/womanizer makes good” tale. Like all middle-aged hot unmarried men living in the city, divorce attorney Joe White (a woefully ripped Tuc Watkins of Desperate Housewives and One Life to Live fame) is as successful nailing people in the courtroom as he is in his NYC corner office on the top floor of a high-rise (gay, Asian, underage and a lawsuit waiting to happen – it’s all the same to Joe White!) But when his meddling mother (a surprisingly lackluster Betty Buckley – I love that dame!) reveals that – SEMI-SPOILER ALERT! – she has fast-acting cancer and that her dying wish is for a grandchild, professional liar Joe White has to act fast to get her one and in the process spins a web of lies so large that it traps everyone from his best pal of over twenty years (Peter Scolari) to his love-spurned bitter ex from college (Andrea Grano), who, moments after Mama White’s confession just so happens to hire Joe as her divorce attorney and just so happens to have a daughter (Christy Carlson Romano) who could easily have been conceived at the time of their collegiate romance and could possibly play the role of Joe’s just-discovered daughter that he’s had all this time (which – duh – she does)! To quote the press release for White's Lies, “What could go wrong?”
Why, everything, of course! Cue 90 minutes of predictable drama that is cute at its best and creepy at its worst (OF COURSE our eternal bachelor falls head over heels for the barely legal daughter of his bitter college ex whom he has persuaded to play the role of his long lost offspring! Nevermind the fact that less than a quarter of a century ago he was having the sex with her mother. EW, by the way). But will someone spill the beans to Mama White? And will she die fast enough so that Joe and his pretend lovechild/true love can hurry up already and run off into the sunset? And if they DO run off into the sunset, will they be able to keep their romance a secret from Joe's bitter ex who has warned her daughter from birth about guys just like this man/her ex? And if Bitter Ex is getting divorced for the third time and truly despises Joe White, who is neurotic enough to fall for her? And if she CAN find someone (which, of course, she does) will Joe’s assistant/resident bartender ever get promoted/find his bar’s niche? And if all of the above happens, will Joe White really be the changed man he now claims to be? (In reality, that answer would be a resounding, “HELL NO,” but we’re talking rom com here, people, OF COURSE he’s a changed man. He slept with his faux daughter, didn’t he? If that doesn’t change a man…)
Not to worry – all of the above questions (and then some) get answered and all of the problems solved, which – let’s be real – the audience knows the second the lights go up (it’s only about as obvious as the wardrobe department’s choice to put Buckley in Louboutins). Like many a chick flick before it, White's Lies conflicts do not propel one to the edge of their seat so much as they leave one sitting back comfortably, waiting for the show to resolve itself neatly. Pleasantly waiting, yes, but waiting nonetheless. Similar to the cinematic romantic comedies of late (Bride Wars and The Ugly Truth come to mind), this show lacks the sincerity and creativity that make other stories of the genre great, and the star power in it feels under-utilized.
With that said, White's Lies is not without its highlights. I particularly enjoyed the set and lighting design and several performances that stand out despite the formulaic plot. The use of video and images that are projected onto parts of the multi-tasking set brilliantly transform Joe’s NYC law office (a real view from a real NYC high-rise is projected) to a neighborhood bar (the image changes into an aquarium). When there is a scene change, the video footage of NYC cafés, shot glasses being raised and filled, taxis zooming past and other city-specific images that rolls is a fun way to bring to life the world of the play. As far as performances go, Jimmy Ray Bennett does the quintessential role of token gay guy (what rom com is complete without one?). Not to be outdone, small screen and stage vet Scolari is perfect and equally as guffaw-inducing as Bennett in his role as Alan, the lovably nervous and nebbish Robin to Watkins’ perfectly toned Batman. Also of note is the honesty and vulnerability with which Grano plays the love-scorned ex, Barbara. Kudos to her for bringing the truth.
Sure, White's Lies explores no new territory, but it is certainly cute and enjoyable to watch and will definitely scratch the itch for light entertainment and romance if you have the desire to see it done onstage and not on your TV screen at home. Besides, part of the greatness that is the rom com is seeing the mash-up of big name stars that the producers manage to sign on for such a project. And who could pass up a chance to see an excellent Peter Scolari mixed with eye candy Tuc Watkins? Go ahead – get yourself a ticket and see a very guilty little pleasure of a show (don't worry – your secret love of rom coms is safe with me…and the box office).
(White's Lies plays at New World Stages, 340 West 50th Street. Performances are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm and 7:30pm. Tickets are $60-$75 and can be purchased at telecharge.com or by calling 212.239.6200. Student rush tickets are $30 and are available at the box office on the day of the performance. For more show info visit whitesliesonstage.com.)