(*homocinematically inclined)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Reverend’s Reviews: 3 Nights with Brian Geraghty

Imagine spending three nights in the presence of an attractive, up-and-coming star of stage and screen. I was fortunate this past week to do so … albeit only one of them literally and none of them privately. The rising star in question is Brian Geraghty. The 34-year old plays Specialist Owen Eldridge in the acclaimed Best Picture-hopeful The Hurt Locker, which I finally had the chance to watch.

Perhaps inevitably when it comes to catching such a critically hyped film late in the game, I was a bit under-whelmed by The Hurt Locker. While Kathryn Bigelow’s taut direction is Academy Award-worthy, Mark Boal’s script didn’t get far enough beneath the characters’ skin for me to fully sympathize with their “war is a drug and we are addicted” plight. However, the principal actors — Geraghty, Anthony Mackie and Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner — give uniformly excellent performances.

Geraghty can also currently be found on stage at Los Angeles’s Mark Taper Forum through March 21, starring alongside Martin Sheen and Six Feet Under’s Frances Conroy in a revival of Frank Gilroy’s acclaimed 1964 play The Subject Was Roses. I was privileged to attend the February 21st opening night in the company of Sheen’s sons, Emilio Estevez and the rehab-bound Charlie, as well as Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, among other luminaries. (Steenburgen, btw, looks fabulous!)

The Subject Was Roses lifts the veil on the dysfunctional Cleary family. Son Timmy (Geraghty) has just come home following three years of military service during World War II. His father, John (Sheen, who played Timmy in the original Broadway production), is thrilled that his previously shy and physically underdeveloped son has returned a strong and seemingly secure young man.

Timmy quickly finds himself a pawn in the ongoing power struggle between his mother, Nettie (Conroy), and John. Long steeped in Irish-Catholicism and alcoholic-codependency, the Cleary family begins unraveling. Timmy is faced with a stark choice: should he stay in a doomed desire to save his parents’ marriage, or shall he move out into the world and on with his own life?

Sheen is wonderful throughout the Mark Taper production. He knows the material backwards and forwards between the original stage production and the Oscar-winning 1968 movie, in which Sheen reprised his career-making role of Timmy. Geraghty and Conroy have more mixed results with the material. Their performances are uneven, which is likely due to Neil Pepe’s so-so direction.

Pepe’s resume is heavily populated with productions of various David Mamet plays, and he is likely more comfortable with Mamet’s unapologetic, hard-hitting style. While patriarch John boasts plenty of Mamet-like macho swagger, the characters of Nettie and Timmy require a softer touch than Pepe is apparently capable of encouraging. Geraghty’s performance is a bit too broad during the first act, and Timmy comes across as too insensitive and selfish during Act II.

Still, The Subject Was Roses is a little-performed play that still holds power, and the current LA production is well worth catching. Geraghty’s best work to date, though, is in the independent feature Easier with Practice. An advance DVD screener of the film provided my third virtual date with the actor this past week. The movie opens theatrically this Friday in LA and New York.

Geraghty plays the lead role of Davy in Easier with Practice, which is written and directed by the openly gay — and super cute — Kyle Patrick Alvarez, a first-time filmmaker to watch (in fact, he is nominated for just such an honor at this year's Independent Spirit Awards, where the film itself is up for Best First Feature). Davy is a writer traveling the country with his brother (another up-and-coming actor, Kel O’Neill) to promote his self-published book of short stories.

Alone in their hotel room one night, Davy receives a random phone call from the mysterious Nicole. They embark on an ongoing phone-sex relationship that gradually develops into a deeper, mutual emotional connection. When they eventually decide to meet face-to-face, the encounter provides a surprising revelation for Davy and viewers alike. I dare not reveal more.

As Davy, Geraghty renders a gutsy, extraordinary portrayal that fully reveals his potential as a sensitive, risk-taking actor with leading-man confidence. Be sure to schedule your own night with Brian Geraghty and see Easier with Practice, The Hurt Locker and/or The Subject Was Roses, and prepare for this very talented actor to become a household name in the near future.

UPDATE: Easier with Practice is now available on DVD from

Reviews by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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