THE ALL-AMERICAN GENDERF*CK CABARET- HAVE YOUR CAKE AND FUCK IT TOO
A REVIEW BY THE BAD ORACLE
Okay, alllllll y’all cunts out there who think I am such a big ol’ meanie pants: this was the show were I was hit in the face by a flying stuffed animal that broke my glasses and I am still going to give it a good review. So there. I’ve got to hand it to playwright Mariah MacCarthy: I have two degrees, one in Theatre (with an “re” dammit) and the other in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. So I have seen a lot of this type of thing. I’ve been to gender blenders that asked me to “hang up my sexuality” at the door. I’ve been to shows where people masturbated with ice cubes, plucked out their public hair, sang songs about the politics of feminine B.O. One woman, one man, one whatever you wish, talkin’, preachin’, just bois and grrrls doing their thang. But this has what so much of that has totally lacked: characters I actually gave a shit about. When the audience laughed, it was not the screaming giggles of easy camp but the self-conscious, honest laughter of a not quite post-feminist, not quite post-gendered, not quite post-gay rights, not quite post-Christian childhood audience confronting the silliness of binaries – and somehow finding it really funny. These characters are the opposite of alienating, they open their arms and we come right on in for a big, self-identifying hug. This cabaret is led by Taylor (M.Hicks), our emcee, who identifies as neither a man or a woman (Jeeze, does that drive the neighbors crazy, huh?). Taylor functions as a Jiminey Cricket type, leading the other characters on their quests to become real boys or girls or both or neither. We meet the girls: Gwen (Siobhan Beckett), a woman taking a Joan Holloway-esque swim through the choppy waters of power by patriarchy, Allegra (Sarah Lloyd), a pretty-pretty-princess, Kate (Jessica Ruth Baker) a self-styled man hater and Devon (Sarah Weissman) a tomboyish Amazon. And then there are the boys: Dick (Jarrett Ervin) a man’s man about as subtle as his name, Benji (Sam Hayder) that poor boy who always has to prove that he’s straight, Adrian (Vince Constantino) a slightly stupid “cool guy”, and DJ (Alexander Scally) a gay hairdresser who is every gal’s best pal. If these easy categorizations seem limiting that’s because, well, they are, and that’s the point. By and large, these are not people who are having problems with their identities, rather, they are people who are having problems performing their identities. In short, brilliant vignettes MacCarthy sets up the stereotypes and watches them fall – the man’s man, Dick, who has tender conversations with his toddler nephew, the man-hater, Kate, who finds a way to be friends with Dick, the princess, Allegra, screaming obscenities as she puts on her makeup. Director Susan Stroupe has done an almost impossible thing: she has formed these actors into a true ensemble. That means that they listen to each other, they build and they just work. None of them are made into easy targets. There are no weak links in the cast but I did have favorites, I can’t help it. I adored Sarah Lloyd’s bug-eyed, baby-voiced Allegra. Jessica Ruth Baker’s Kate has a hysterical monologue as the president of the “pussy party”, a political campaign that would turn more heads than Ross Perot, I’ll tell you that. Baker is amazing all around, really, her end explanation of why she is wearing (gasp!) a dress is perfectly acted (Ooo! And I just saw that she was Dance Captain and the dancing was ALSO great). In the boy’s bathroom, I fell in love with Sam Hayder’s Benji – his physicality is beautiful and funny and expert. Alexander Scally’s DJ also stole my heart in what I thought was one of the most complex performances in the show – watch the emotions that go over his face, one after the other, right after he beats the living crap out of Dick. In the “both and neither” camp, M. Hicks was viciously touching, subtle, stunning as the angelic Taylor, the patient soul who has been aboard the who-I-am jetliner before and now must guide the others, who are sometimes after Taylor’s gender zen like emotional vampires, towards their group catharsis. I just loved how this show could simultaneously send up things as diverse as Walt Whitman, people who go too far with costumes on 90’s dance party nights, gym rats, Spencer TraceyandKatherine Hepburn, chick flicks, stupid clubs, exercise balls, Sixpence None The Richer (Google it, kids), drag shows, and National Geographic – and still manage to LOVE all of these things. It’s got moxie, guys, it’s got heart. As for tech, well, I have to say that this was one of the smoothest opening nights I’ve ever seen. Sound, some of which involved complicated cuing, was right on target. Lights (especially that one flickering florescent) were a bit of a problem because of the “found space” nature of a rather awkward performance venue, but they made it work. Set by Jesse Herche, Lynn Morton and Susan Stroupe was minimal, but had some nice touches. I liked the origami birds hanging over the salon space (why do hair salons always have shit like that?) and the actor playing the fishtank.
BOTTOM LINE: This femme/dom/rom/com is good and funny and smart and so are the people in it and so is the person who wrote it and so is the person who directed it and so are the people who produced it and so is the audience who sees it. Now look how funny and good and smart you are! Do it now.
Running at Glass Mind Theatre until April 19th.
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