The world premiere of Uptown Players‘ Silver Foxes quickly became a golden ticket. Written by The Golden Girls and Roseanne writers Stan Zimmerman and James Berg and directed by actor Michael Urie, the show already had a lot of pedigree attached, plus, you know, it’s the world premiere. As of Sunday afternoon, per Uptown Players producer and founder Jeff Rane, the rest of the run, which plays in the Theatre Three space, is officially sold out.
According to the website, there are like five open seats across this weekend’s run so grab one fast if you can – because it’s so worth it. Silver Foxes was a hilarious and poignant romp that centers on four gay men, two who are dealing with middle age, another escaping from his homophobic living facility and a twink who really just doesn’t know any better most of the time.
A former couple who live together, Chuck (BJ Cleveland) and Benny (Robert San Juan) cohabitate in present day Palm Springs. They argue over the mundane goings-on in the house and their neighborhood – particularly their next door lesbian neighbors Nika and Tirsh (Leslie Marie Collins) who want to purchase Chuck’s mid-century home. They navigate hook-up apps, foster cats, FitBit heart rates and also their middle age status in the gay universe.
Their friend Jerry’s twink boyfriend Toby (Edson Montenegro) who worships at the altar of Britney and social media ends up as an extended houseguest. Former hairdresser to the stars Cecil (Jon Morehouse) has escaped his gay-unfriendly assisted living facility to Chuck and Benny’s place. They all work together to save Cecil amid discovering more about each other and themselves.
Being the scribes Berg and Zimmerman are, Silver Foxes has complete sitcom appeal along with those stop-for-laugh lines that make up the funny and sassy exchanges among the men. But within that, the writers mix humor with heart. Although they have embraced middle age before with the GGs, its display here was a lovely and refreshing sentiment. Basically, we’re here, queer and middle-aged.
As Chuck and Benny, Cleveland and San Juan nailed the lived-in feeling of these two former lovers/longtime friends. Their chemistry was puzzle-piece perfect. The natural vibe with each other was so good that realizing it was a complete afterthought. Cleveland can easily deliver a grand performance, but his understated Chuck gave the show and his character a gravity that anchored the story. San Juan does the same only with a bit more flair. Benny’s equally centered in the story but San Juan painted him with lovely compassion.
For Toby the twink, Montenegro was lovable fun. The role relied much on an ebullient and self-centered sass that Montenegro delivered strongly. But when the audience got to learn more about Toby, they brought a tender vulnerability to the character. Even with Toby’s ignorance of queer history and unintentional jabs at the older fellas, they played Toby with irresistible charm.
Cecil was also a vibrant personality which Morehouse delivered with panache. He dipped his toe into many facets of Cecil, first as fabulous and carfree to a meek patient of Collins’ stern and conservative facility director Miss Swenson. Morehouse then layered on anger, frustration and kindheartedness in other scenes with impressive ease.
Every time Collins was on stage, she was a different character from the power lesbian couple (yes, both of them) to ultimately Toby’s potential zaddy. Her showiest moments were as the neighbor Helene. There are shades of Jennifer Coolidge in Collins’ boozy, blonde grandmother with her tightfitting dress and martini glass in hand, but she left a lasting and side-splitting impression – especially when she snatched her own damn wig.
Urie’s direction kept the show in perpetual motion without skimping on humor or drama. Like a TV sitcom (which this story could easily be) no moment felt wasted. This gave the show a punchy energy that was only bolstered by the cast. Kevin Brown’s set was cleverly designed fitting in the main living room, the kitchen and dinette and sliding glass doors to the patio and pool house as well as attention to the front porch that was often unseen by the closed door. To complement, Amanda West’s light design gave off sunny Palm Springs vibes but was often resplendent in portraying different times of the day and moods.
What was most evident was the love Berg and Zimmerman have for these characters. They were relatable and human with flaws, but mostly they painted a glorious picture of queer culture that isn’t dominated by thirst trap abs and pecs. Aging and queerhood is a thing and Silver Foxes showed that with some good friends, cocktails and maybe a penis-shaped cake, middle age can be fabulous.