|Don't Cry For Me, Homosexuals: A Review of THE HOMOSEXUALS by Philip Dawkins
posted by Bryan Buttler on Aug 14, 2013 10:30am | comments
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Bryan H. Buttler is a Philadelphia-based writer and educator who holds both a B.A. and M.A. in English. Bryan has had the pleasure of covering major LGBTQ film and theatre festivals in Philadelphia for Philly Gay Calendar, amongst other regionalized topics, and recently hosted a community talkback with Quince Productions about the changing face of gay spaces and bars. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Communications at Gloucester County College where he chairs the institutionís Gay Straight Alliance and has sponsored regional initiatives for the National Day of Silence. His work can be found at www.bryanbuttler.com.
In the movie and musical Hairspray (more on why I’m starting this review referencing a musical shortly), it’s the spunky large-and-in-charge protagonist Tracy Turnblad and her equally, ahem, robust mother, Edna, who end up selling the musical’s overall ethos. The same could be said for the two characters who don’t take off their clothes in Philip Dawkins’s play The Homosexuals, which runs as part of this month’s GayFest. Both Frank Schierloh and Katherine Perry, who play the characters of Michael and Tam, respectively, are the true winners of Sarah Gafgen’s production.
Not that there isn’t anything wrong with Zachary Chiero’s performance as the protagonist, Evan, and heaven knows we get to see him stripped down to his underwear through the vast majority of the play (not that I’m complaining about that). As a matter of fact, there’s a lot of skin to go around in this chronologically-reversed plot about Evan’s progression as a gay man through his awkward coming out through his numerous sexual and romantic exploits. The extended metaphor used throughout the play is that of musical theater, and, alas, the comparison starts to feel a little stealth-bomberish (the plot structure is essentially plucked directly from Sondheim’s little-known musical Merrily We Roll Along, about a group of friends told in reverse order). Throughout the almost two-hour play, we get to see Evan’s interactions with theater queen Peter (a charming and energetic Christopher Melohn), “British Mark” (a fine, quite staunch, Sebastian Cummings), another “Mark” (a soft-spoken and often times unmemorable Shamus Hunter McCarty), and Collin (an excellent Dexter Anderson). Ms. Gafgan does a notable job keeping the play paced appropriately.
But the sparks truly fly when we are treated to the scenes involving both Mr. Schierloh and Ms. Perry. Mr. Schierloh’s Michael is probably the most moving portrayal in the entire production, his character being the Mr. Cellophane in the group of friends (he even states, “Every experiment needs a control”). Mr. Schierloah takes particular care to play Michael as authentic and his performance is remarkably effective. In one scene, Michael tells the ailing Evan about his childhood obsession with a popular male classmate in third grade and how he was sexually humiliated when he urinates himself in front of his crush. It is a noteworthy moment, and even more so, we are clearly able to see how Michael is about the only character in the entire play that loves and cares deeply for Evan, fully aware that his love will never be reciprocated.
The other star of the evening is Ms. Perry, who plays the only female character in the play, Tam, a young woman who has been pegged as the group’s “fag hag.” Tam was a university instructor who now teaches underprivileged elementary school students (it is strongly hinted that she may have had a nervous breakdown between college undergraduates’ grade complaints and her arranged marriage to the gay “British Mark” so he could gain citizenship). Tam isn’t doing well, and we can see this right from the beginning of Ms. Perry’s entrance. She embraces the drunken, depressed woman and throws her soul at Evan, almost knowing that she won’t get anything in return. Ms. Perry performs a remarkable tango, ensuring that the over-the-top character of Tam doesn’t come off as simply a dramatic “hag” but rather as a person who so deeply longs for acceptance that she’ll sacrifice her well being for others.
It is these bittersweet moments that are truly the memorable ones in The Homosexuals. As Mr. Schierloh’s Mark stares out into the audience at Evan’s hospital bed and recalls his childhood shame, or when Ms. Perry’s Tam passionately exclaims that she was done dealing with “effin’ white privilege” during her college teaching days, we, as the audience, feel more confluence with the production. Not to mention that in both of these moments, there is not a single reference to Andrew Lloyd Webber, Evita, or the Tony Awards.
The Homosexuals continues at Plays & Players upstairs studio, 1714 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, through August 24, 2013. For more information, visit www.quinceproductions.com or call 215-627-1088.