Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach

Article excerpt

What causes homosexuality?" asks Mr. Charles, settling himself on the, throne of his cable-access empire, sporting a, lemon-custard jacket, a paisley necktie for a belt, and a gleam in his eye born of more than one martini. "I do!"

Like a creature fashioned from the DNA of Paul Lynde in some fabulous laboratory, the title character of Paul Rudnick's hilarious new one-act Mr. Charles, Currently of Palm Beach embodies a gay archetype that Carl Jung overlooked: the Stereotype That Gives Us All a Bad Name. Mr. Charles apparently became so notorious for taking "nellie breaks" at politically incorrect times that he was asked to leave New York. As revenge, he has repaired to southern Florida and taken to the airwaves with his late-night cable show, Too Gay.

Besides proclaiming that he can turn anyone gay with a look--which makes his impromptu visits to maternity wards disturbing to new parents--Mr. Charles provides breezy answers to questions sent in by viewers. Should gays be allowed to serve in the military? Mr. Charles thinks not. "Make remarks, not war." Should gays be allowed to marry? "Of course, to wealthy older women." He astutely notes that only a gay disease would be treated by something called a cocktail. And he has in mind writing a few more children's books on homosexuality, such as Uncle Patrick Has a Beautiful Apartment and Aunt Cathy's Large Friend. Mr. Charles (the magnificently prissy Peter Bartlett) is assisted throughout the program by the lovely and talented Shane (Ross Gibby), who models a new costume with each entrance. When Mr. Charles runs through his 60-capsule history of gay theater, which he summarizes as "Love, Valour, and Gratuitous Male Frontal Nudity," Shane appears in his best costume of the show. …