George Bamber's adaptation of Eric Orner's syndicated gay comic strip is remarkably true to its source: It's none too deep and a tad cartoonish, but also fast-paced, filled with quotable one-liners and often very funny. When he was a boy, Ethan Green (Chase Ellison) played "Dream Date" with evil harridan-in-training Mary-Fran Fabreze (Mariah Bess), who haughtily...read more
George Bamber's adaptation of Eric Orner's syndicated gay comic strip is remarkably true to its source: It's none too deep and a tad cartoonish, but also fast-paced, filled with quotable one-liners and often very funny. When he was a boy, Ethan Green (Chase Ellison) played "Dream Date" with evil harridan-in-training Mary-Fran Fabreze (Mariah Bess), who haughtily advised: "You play to win or you don't play at all" and "You're only as good as who you date." Now a 26-year-old assistant to a TV weatherman, Ethan (Daniel Letterle) is still living by Mary-Fran Fabreze's harsh doctrine: He's insecure and unable to accept others at face value. Whenever a new boyfriend gets too close, Ethan immediately scrambles up an excuse to break up, a move his mother (Meredith Baxter, looking fit and most fabulous), an event planner catering to gay couples, calls "The Ethan Reflex." Ethan's current, newly-out boyfriend is former baseball player Kyle Underhill (Diego Serrano). whom Ethan hopes will soon invite him to share his fabulous home. But Ethan's dreams aren't entirely romantic: His ex, Leo (David Monahan), is selling "Casa Ryan," the house Ethan shares with his lesbian roommate (Shanola Hampton). Its nickname, courtesy of the mustached and muumuued "Hat Sisters" (Richard Riehle, Joel Brooks), honors Meg Ryan, the patron saint of romance. To delay inevitable eviction, Ethan persuades 19-year-old sex addict/real-estate agent Punch (Dean Shelton) to let his colleague Sunny Deal (Rebecca Lowman) show the property; she's a barely functional mess who hasn't sold a house in years. Perversely, but true to form, when Kyle finally does ask Ethan to move in, Ethan panics and dumps him. Now with no boyfriend or place to live, Ethan turns for comfort first to Punch and then, disastrously, to Leo, who's in the middle of planning a commitment ceremony with his new boyfriend, the controlling Log Cabin Republican Chester Baer (Scott Akinson). While not as dramatic as Armistead Maupin's serialized Tales of the City, which memorably captured the gay zeitgeist of San Francisco in the '70s and '80s, Orner's strip highlights what's on the minds of many gay men: dating, self-esteem and finding the "boyfriend within." David Vernon's script captures the comic's breezy, episodic style, though he's hard-pressed to contrive a believable third-act climax that pulls every thread into a neat knot. But this likable comedy is honest enough to admit when it's about to press-gang yet another romantic comedy cliche into service, and smart enough to turn it into a joke. The animated interlude that recounts the sad career of Sunny Deal, who cracked up after accidentally gassing her cats, is by Mr. Orner himself.