Theater Review: THE BOTTOMING PROCESS (IAMA Theatre Company and the Los Angeles LGBT Center)

Post image for Theater Review: THE BOTTOMING PROCESS (IAMA Theatre Company and the Los Angeles LGBT Center)

by William C. on May 24, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles


“Why won’t you let me top you? Is it because I am Asian?!” This ear-catching line is decried robustly by the very passionate protagonist Milo (the expressive George Salazar), a Filipino neurotic social media account manager to his lover, young adult book writer and celebrity, John (Rick Cosnett). After a meet-cute, John courted Milo hard. After struggling with cultural trepidation about dating a white guy, Milo eventually gave in to John’s charming pursuit. Does the relationship work out? Well, giving away the ending is not much of a spoiler alert as the play’s title, The Bottoming Process, may already have clued you in. The romance slowly hits rock bottom as arguments about race, white privilege, and model minority myth slowly chip away at any reason for Milo and John to stay together.

Rick Cosnett and George Salazar

This world premiere and debut of playwright Nicholas Pilapil, which opened last night at the Renberg Theatre, is a melodramatic gay romance about a mixed-race/age-gap couple (although the two actors look quite similar in age). It’s the love child of Pride and Prejudice and Queer as Folk, but written in LA-speak.

Julia Cho, Ty Molbak

It took me a while to realize that The Bottoming Process is a morality play. While Milo rants about the less-than place that white society has placed on queer Asian men, he actually represents that stereotype (plays video games, slightly flamboyant, argumentative, gossipy, fragile ego), whereas John fits the clueless, well-meaning white gay man. Often enough, the writing is pretty funny and packed with pop cultural references and funny gay slang that received generous laughter from the opening night crowd.

George Salazar, Anisha Adusumilli, Rick Cosnett

However, the problem for me as a big fan of storytelling lies in the handling of character development and the way tension is developed. Each of the five characters seems more of a caricature of somebody, or a collection of identities, rather than a fully fleshed-out individual. Often the big mic-drop moments felt flat due to the lack of narrative momentum needed to create the intended dramatic effect. Instead, the central message often comes off as preachy instead of emotional (and, boy, can Milo preach). Ultimately, the 100-minute one-act felt like an afterschool special for white people about the cautionary tale of unintended racism.

Anisha Adusumilli, Rick Cosnett

Don’t get me wrong. As a gay-sian in a mixed-race/age-gap marriage, I feel the message, and I think there is a lot of truth being spoken on stage. (Preach, sister!) However, I think the play is just a bit too on the nose for me. And, seriously, gay sassy girlfriends as a genre needs some much-needed overhaul. I get it, we, as gays, have female best friends, but they deserve some personality or some sort of meaningful character arc. Still, Anisha Adusumilli as literary agent Charlie is quite memorable, and her presence in the role helps ground the narrative with a tiny subplot involving this strong female struggling to juggle literary world dominance and familial obligation. Julia Cho is a riot as Rosie, Milo’s Korean-American bestie, and her energy clicks amazingly well with Salazar, who — along with Cosnett — gives a tremendous performance; I really did buy the sexual tension between the two. Ty Molback offers support in three smaller roles.

George Salazar and Rick Cosnett

The design team created a believable world that helps the structure under Rodney To‘s reasonably strong direction. Nicholas Santiago‘s projection design married quite well with Christopher Scott Murillo‘s set design. Josh Epstein’s lighting and Jeff Gardner’s sound aided the visuals quite well. A big shout-out needs to be given to prop co-designers Michael O’Hara and Rye Mandel, as the play has many consumable elements.

George Salazar and Julia Cho

I would still recommend this to my friends because diverse voices should be celebrated. As a new playwright, Nicholas Pilapil has quite a unique and sharp voice. The Los Angeles theater community is better with voices such as his. I look forward to his future endeavors, as I am confident he will only improve.

photos by Jeff Lorch

The Bottoming Process
IAMA Theatre Company and the Los Angeles LGBT Center
Renberg Theatre at the L.A. LGBT Center
The Village at Ed Gould Plaza; 1125 N. McCadden Place in Hollywood
Mon, Fri and Sat at 8; Sun at 2
ends on May 28, 2023
for tickets, call 323-860-7300 or visit LA Gay Center

Leave a Comment