There is a kind of playwright who glitters magnificently on the surface of life. He doesn't probe for depth; he frolics in the shallows, which is where, after all, most of life takes place; and he finds depth in those shallows. Noel Coward did it: Very flat, Norfolk, but in that flatness, on the surface, the Master could skewer and enlighten.

Like Coward, Paul Rudnick is homosexual and funny and brittle, and, when he stays up the shallow end, he can be oddly deep. When he tries to be deep and heavy, he's trite and lightweight. The last time I discussed him in these pages was just under three years ago when, a few days after September 11, I went to see his Rude Entertainment, a gay cornucopia—a horn of plenty that had plenty going for it when it started but had less and less the more Rudnick shoveled in. The trio of one-acts was, in essence, a meditation on the changing gay sensibility—the first playlet was...


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