If you’ve met Tom DeTrinis at a party (do you remember parties?), You might find him perfectly pleasant, even funny. However, the truth is that he wants to punch you in the face.
“And so,” he says in “Making Friends,” his furious new solo show for the IAMA Theater Company in Los Angeles, “I want to slap my face because I want to slap you in the face because I should.” love and accept other people. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? “
The deliberate irony is that as a fearful, emotional, dramatic child – the only gay member of a large, “Jesus-addicted family” on “hypermasculine Long Island” – he longed for love and acceptance.
So obviously his aggressive, persistent, undiluted anger. It saturates this bitter, navel-gazing, hour-long comedy whose grave bag full of grievances (especially an excessive hatred of New York) remains untouched by the present parlous state of the world.
In any normal year, “making friends” would be an inconspicuous program choice, especially during the holidays when so many people feel alienated from their families. But in this overwhelmingly disastrous year, streaming is a confusing chore for a company.
Filmed live in an empty theater at the Pico Playhouse in Los Angeles, this type of show is the affirmation and fellowship of an audience in the room that laughs and is compassionate – a lot like the one that director Drew Droege had his successful solo show for, the exciting and emotionally pervasive “Bright Colors and Bold Patterns”.
“Making Friends” is nowhere near as focused and clear as this meticulously constructed piece. Still, it’s not surprising how much more effective DeTrinis’ monologue could have found its shape with the instant feedback and buoyancy energy of people in those vacant playhouse seats that he – at times quite accusingly – addresses as if they were filled.
DeTrinis looks gorgeous and spectatorless, although beautifully lit by Donny Jackson, and looks self-obsessed. This is not least due to the fact that “Making Friends”, which he wrote, is so deliberately not aware of the current events, as if it had been pulled out of a time capsule that was not filmed according to the protocols of a Covid 19 compliance officer.
Promotional materials suggest the show is in tune with the moment because we’re all so mad right now. But it’s deaf how DeTrinis scolded long lines in a Manhattan restaurant that is now part of a badly wounded industry, or the arrogance of New York bartenders, many of whom have been unemployed lately. It’s bizarre to be 30 years old and not working on Broadway when (you may have heard) nobody works on Broadway.
The show is most enlightening when DeTrinis imagines the uncle he’s named after, who died as a toddler, and whom DeTrinis likes to think is gay. In a fantasy version of Uncle Tommy, he is a Palm Springs design maven who loves his nephew like a son.
If only, right? Perhaps DeTrinis wouldn’t want to slap us in the face in the face of that loving acceptance.
Streaming until January 11; iamatheatre.com.