Norman, Is That You?, recently on the boards at Actor's Theatre of New Orleans, is the title of the 1970s comedy and also is the funniest line in the show.
When the lights come up, somebody (or -bodies) are lying in bed in a New York apartment. The doorbell sounds and 26-year-old Norman (Kyle Woods) gets up to answer the buzzer. To his shock and horror, it's his dad Ben (Rene J.F. Piazza). The ill-tempered Ben, who runs a successful dry cleaning business in Ohio, is dropping in for a surprise visit. Norman rouses the other sleeper — his lover Garson Hobart (Brian Slayton). Garson is long out of the closet, but Norman has not told his parents about his sexual orientation. He buzzes in his dad and hurries Garson out of the apartment in an attempt to put off the inevitable explosion.
Most of the play, however, is taken up with Ben's fury. He disapproves of homosexuals. He rants. He raves. All, of course, to no avail. He even brings in an attractive, gum-chewing prostitute named Mary (Greta Trosclair) in the hopes of "curing" Norman of his gayness.
Ben came to see his son for consolation because his wife Beatrice (Viki Lovelace) ran off with his brother. They took Ben's car and are holed up in a cheap motel in Montreal. Suddenly, Beatrice also shows up at Norman's apartment. She says the fling with Ben's brother was a bust. Perhaps partly for revenge, Ben tells Beatrice their son is gay.
Just then, Mary, wearing a swank satin robe, sashays out of the bedroom. "Norman," Beatrice gasps, "is that you?"
Up to that point, the knockabout comedy and wisecracks are at times funny, and sometimes a bit too predictable and repetitious. But Beatrice's reaction catches us off guard.
Norman, Is That You? is dated. But actor/director Piazza relished the nonsense and got lively performances from his cast. His Ben was a torrent of overbearing, loud truculence that kept the dilemmas moving. The other characters had plenty to deal with just coping with Ben. The show was flawed, but more enjoyable than it had a right to be. — Dalt Wonk