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Of course Ibsen’s brooding Hedda has been with us for a century or so, so we’ve had a while to get under her skin, to understand how she builds up her identity as a bulwark against the pressures of her world. One problem with All That I Will Ever Be, and with Alan Ball’s similarly complicated Omar—a prostitute so steeped in role-playing, so cloaked in the lies he tells and the assumptions others make that he’s all but lost sight of his identity—is that he’s brand-new, an authorial invention aimed at figuring out how we define ourselves in a culture that increasingly defines itself by what it owns, or by what it’s not.
The other problem: Omar lies. He lies to customers at the Circuit City–style retail behemoth where a day job selling cordless phones seems to pain him more than the one that involves selling his body. He lies to his johns, for whom he’s Greek or Persian or Saudi, depending on what kind of impression he wants to make. He lies to Dwight, the damaged dropout rich kid who’s decided that his parents’ betrayals have left him with pain he just can’t move past but who sees something equally fragile behind the hustler’s smart-aleck sneer. And Omar lies, by extension, to the audience—so by the time Ball gets around to asking you to sympathize with this lost boy’s own pain, you may not trust him enough to care.
Which is kind of a shame. Because although the situations frequently feel contrived (closeted Hollywood moguls! who’ve slept with Omar! and who employ Omar’s girlfriend!), and although more than one character exists solely to make the contrivances possible (whoops, there goes the girlfriend!), a thread of something begins to make itself between Carlos Candelario’s aggressively sensual Omar and Parker Dixon’s petulant, put-upon Dwight, and you begin to hope they’ll figure out how to make each other whole.
But then that complicated tissue of lies collapses in on itself, and things get broken, and the play veers off into an unpleasant little coda that seems to want to show you both how shattered Omar is and how much he’s learned from his mistakes. And never mind Serge Seiden’s stylish, detail-oriented staging: The self-conscious mechanics of Ball’s script get in the way, and you stop caring all over again.