BWW Review: THE ALL-AMERICAN GENDERF*CK CABARET Doesn't S*ck
The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret Does Not S*ck
Glass Mind Theatre's newest production, The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret, by NYC playwright Mariah MacCarthy, opened Friday night at Gallery 788 in Hamden. So yeah, Hamden, that's cool. And an art gallery, that's also cool. It has swearing in the title, which, if not actually cool, is at least contemporary. There's a bar in the room, very cool, serving boxwine, which is so far away from cool that it comes full circle to coolness in a dirty chic neo-bohemian starving artist sort of way.
I confess I arrived prepared to endure rather than enjoy, because I imagined a gang of angry queers shouting slam poetry. Which, okay, was extreme of me, but I had my game face on. The set, which included a Beer Fort constructed of Natty Boh cans, and the seating, which was PTA folding chairs, and the boxwine comforted me and made me feel safe. Also, the house music was swing jazz covers of pop songs.
The lights went down, and Taylor, our host/MC for the evening, walked right through the fourth wall and into our hearts, and I was suddenly excited and pleased to be in the room. This is crucial: it is up to Taylor to win us from the opening moments, and the collaboration of script, direction and acting combine to form a perfect hook. M. Hicks as the androgynous Taylor is a charming, instigative, funny guide for our journey with eight additional characters who evolve, through short scenes and Taylor's expository mini-biographies, from cliched stereotypic caricatures into multi-dimensional human people. Jessica Ruth Baker as Kate, a militant lesbian, is spot-on annoying, but her early tiny glimmers of humanity gradually strengthen to a full beam of likeability. Vince Constantino as Adrian, the horndog swaggering jerk many of us have hated, dated, loved, hated, dumped and taken back, sometimes twice, is all he ought to be with a bonus hint of occasional uncertainty.
Excepting Taylor, all of the characters are annoying. They're also not just believable but real. If you don't know someone very much like each one of them, you probably don't get out much. MacCarthy's script offers the audience people, not simply characters. This was particularly important in the space, since director Susan Stroupe uses not just the wedding dancefloor stage for action, but the aisles and the bar as well. The actors were out among us, and one of them smelled FINE.
Because of the seating not being raked, some important action that takes place on the floor downstage is invisible to all but the front two rows. Otherwise, Stroupe creates entertaining, imaginative- though not outlandish- movements and interactions with this capable cast and non-linear script. It was obvious that they were well-rehearsed and solid enough to cover for the few tech errors that occurred. The actors are comfortable in their world, even (especially?) during uncomfortable moments. The action was snappy, except in the spots when it wasn't, and nothing felt either too choppy or needlessly prolonged. They did over-run their stated time of 2 ½ hours, including intermission by a little, but that's likely been tightened. A special nod to the aquarium effect in a scene which otherwise would've been static.
A couple of cautions: parking is a catch-as-catch-can affair, and stairs are required to access the gallery space. This show may seem to cater to the LBGT community, but truly, anyone who is interested, curious, confused or ambivalent about variety in human relationships can expect to be entertained, enlightened and given a few provoking thoughts for afterwards, and may even leave with warm fuzzies. That's pretty good theatre, in my opinion.
The show runs Thursday through Saturday at 8pm.
Gallery 788, 3602 Hickory Avenue, Hamden, MD
For more information and tickets, visit http://www.glassmindtheatre.com/,
(443) 475-0223 or firstname.lastname@example.org