Into an arena most known for its machoism, bravado, and physical feats of strength and fitness, Rob Ward places two boxers who develop a love between them that runs counter to the extreme homophobia so prevalent in that world. One is out already; one is not even totally aware yet of his preferences although he is quite resistant to his mother’s pleas to meet a nice girl and settle down. Gypsy Queen is as fast-moving in its multiple scenes and as shifting in its many characters (all played by two actors) as the dancing moves of two men in gloves boxing for the right to be called champion.
Rob Ward is “Dane the Pain,” a boxer out to his boxing gym owner dad and thus in constant state of conflict and alienation with him. Ryan Clayton is “Gorgeous George,” a pretty-boy up-and-comer who has caught the eye of Dane’s dad — and the eye of Dane, but for an entirely different, more carnal reason. Each actor plays the parent of the other — Ryan as the gravelly voiced, brusque dad of Dane and Rob as the high, warble-sounding mother of George who may go every day to mass but is not shy in using the necessary four-letter word to color her speech. Each actor continuously changes costumes before us as their voices, accents, postures, and personalities also shift among an entire host of quirky, neighborhood characters. Meriel Pym’s set combines with Owen Rafferty’s sound design to place action from the training gym to the boxing arena, from the church to the alley, from a parent’s house to a lover’s apartment.
Director Adam Zane has deftly orchestrated this funny, touching, and in the end, message-filled script, ensuring the audience-close action erupts time and again into brilliantly performed acts of ring-bound fighting and bed-prone love-making. The changes of heart and expressions of support and love that come only after the major characters undergo their own, hard-fought, hard-got transformations are lessons for us all and examples for a world of sports (and not just boxing) where being openly gay is still difficult and even dangerous.
Two bro’s are invited to the wedding of a woman Tunera, with whom they have each had a history. For the gay guy (Jimmy), the tryst was proof he was on the other team; for his straight best-pal (Courgan), the wedding should be his with her, and not some bloke named Jack. As they prepare to show up at the big event, the two share memories of a host of events; and the differences of how they recall and recount those major and minor milestones becomes ever more striking in Chris Issacs’ Fag/Stag.
Even their parallel journeys of finding that next, possible hook-up — or perhaps love — are different (often hilariously so) as one goes Grindr and the other, Tinder.
Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Issacs take us through an emotionally impactful time in their own relationship while proving in the end that differences in sexual preference are not at all bad when it comes to loving and cherishing your best pal. Mr. Issacs’ play does not break a lot of new ground in either insight or script, but the power of the two actors and the overall brisk nature of the telling make this a play quite enjoyable.
The women who through the years have manicured, ratted, made up, and dressed the divas of the big screens and the nightclubs have heard and seen a lot, and three of them are here not only to tell stories but to do so in first-person playing themselves the stars of yesteryear and still today. Doris, Dolly, and the Dressing Room Divas byMorag Fullerton is every woman’s dream of a perfect night out and every gay man’s heaven on earth (and maybe even wet dream). After all, to get Judy, Julie, Doris, Liza, and Dolly (No last names necessary except for a few straight men, and who cares about them?) all on the same stage on the same night: What can be more perfect? So wonderful it is that the show returns to the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival for more of the sold-out performances of its 2016 appearance, but this time there is a totally new cast that is said to be as spectacular as its legendary (to the many attending women and gays, at least) first cast.
One by one, the stars appear in hair-dos and wardrobes that only they can wear — each now a dressing room helper transformed into her long-time idol. Pushy parents, failed marriages, lewd bosses, and bouts of too-much alcohol and drugs seem to be common themes among them; but also common are drives for performance perfection, joys found in fans and friends, and adventures that other women (and many men) would die to have.
The songs known to all in the audience (many of whom are here for a second, third, or many more times) spill forth as each diva steps forward, usually backed by the other two in wonderful harmony and fun, back-up-group choreography. Judy (Frances Thorburn) gets the joint hopping with “Come On, Get Happy” and a gut-rousing number of “Clang, Clang Went the Trolley.” Doris (Claire Waugh) takes us through her many husbands, serenades us with the likes of “Sentimental Journey” and “Que Sera, Sera,” and wows us with scenes from movies made with hunks like her buddy Rock Hudson. Julie appears as Gail Watson and lets us know how much Ms. Andrews actually hated playing the nanny. (Julie Andrews really uses four-letter words?). Claire Watson returns as Liza and is joined by Ms. Thorburn as Joel Gray for a crowd-pleasing “Money, Money.” And with each number, musical director and keyboardist extraordinaire is an impressive and always beaming Hillary Brooks.
But perhaps the show-stopper among many crowd pleasers is when Dolly takes the stage in hair fluffed to the ceiling and boobs that reach out to the first row of audience. Gail Watson has the southern accent; the high, child-like voice; the genuine innocence and honesty; and the astounding singing voice like no other to bring Dolly Parton to life on the Edinburgh stage. When joined by her two companions for “9 to 5,” their singing and choreography almost raises the roof as it brings the entire house down.
If there were ever a show where most of the audience is leaving saying, “I want to see that again,” it is Morag Fullerton’s Doris, Dolly, and the Dressing Room Divas.
Rating: 5 E
Hallam Breen and Phoebe Simmonds
Swallows Le Creme (aka Sammy) is back from another night of drag-queen lip synch at The Closet, but this twenty-three-year-old is not done yet. There is Grindr searching, sauna wandering, drug-taking times ahead even as this drag queen finds some time to hang out with his apartment-mate and BFF, El. El too is hoping to score a new handsome love but is mostly worried at the pace and the risks defining Sammy’s every night.
Hallam Breen and Phoebe Simmonds explore the fast and furious, the down and dirty, and the exciting but sad lives of a certain segment of the young, gay population of Bristol, England in their one-hour play, Ginger Beer. Ned Costello is the turned-on, over-dosing Sammy who is one moment sweet and silly and the next, sour, sullen, and sadistic. Jonas Moore is his good friend El who has increasing problems keeping Sammy sober (never) and safe (hardly ever) while also keeping their friendship intact. Max (Joe Kelly) is a sixteen-year-old pick-up of Sammy’s who falls in heads-over-heels first love for the a guy who cannot seem to remember his name. Showing up on El’s doorstep via a desperate, late-night Grindr foray is a straight hunk, played to straight-up to a ‘t’ by Fabio Owenbridge.
Happiness, romance, and wise choices are not a part of these playwrights’ views of the gay scene. While the action is furious, erotic, and at times even funny, the premise is full of destructive stereotypes and has been done too many times before in decades past. Surely it is time to move on to different views and themes in portraying gay relationships on the stage.
Rating: 2 E
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Theatre Critic for the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, writing 150+ reviews annually for Theatre Eddys and Talkin' Broadway (San Jose/Silicon Valley). Read More