Thursday, April 12, 2012
Theater review part troix: The A Gays: Stillwater, Oklahoma at Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park in Dallas
A fearless, intense, warm, dizzy self-portrait.
John Michael is performing his one-man show, The A Gays: Stillwater, Oklahoma, for Nouveau 47 at Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park, an elegant, if diminutive venue, not far from the Music Hall at Fair Park. If the space is small, you couldn’t tell by John Michael, who leaps and frolics and crawls and prances and camps and mimes self-stimulation and very solemnly applies stick deodorant to his pits to assure you he is considerate of your sensibilities. Over-the-top does not begin to describe The A Gays, a wrenching, hysterically funny, savvy, playful, memorably fresh and original piece detailing the coming out experiences of John Michael. It’s a curious mix. Very earnest, very frank, but introspective, exhibitionistic, impulsive and cerebral, and satirical. There is something exhilarating and dazzling about listening to a guy who is very down to earth, celebrate the particulars of homoerotic lovemaking, devoid of shame or even bashfulness. It’s encouraging to those of us who have heard gay sex is especially icky while (apparently) heterosex is genteel.
John Michael describes coming out while attending Oklahoma State University, the lovely and excruciating moments of dating, the intolerance and caste distinctions within the queer community itself, lunches with a straight friend who advises him in life lessons. At the core of the show is the ghost of Tyler Clemente, the college student who committed suicide after his roommate taped him kissing another guy. He reveals, much to our bewilderment (and his) that Tyler had a gay older brother, and that he was apparently quite supportive. Michael has a gift for clarifying and reducing an issue to its key components, while expressing its complications. As any gifted confessional performer, he is not afraid to depict himself in an unflattering light. This is what makes his storytelling so powerful and entertaining. We can all identify with being so nervous on a date that we drink too much. We can all understand the sort of intense longing that doesn’t necessarily manifest itself in poignancy or lyricism. Or our finest moments.
And yet the net result of John Michael’s 90 minute narrative montage is moving, and memorable. He frames it as memoir, and he’s not afraid to shift gears into childishness, desperation, or giddy elation. It is a fearless, intense, warm, dizzy self-portrait, and it’s frothy and frenetic enough to keep you submerged throughout. I believe any play that puts out stories by gay men and women is all to the good, because the straight rituals of courtship and sexual behavior feel so ubiquitous. Apart from that, I believe Michael lets his humanity radiate beyond his orientation. He takes time to reflect on the distinction between what the world believes it means to be gay or queer, and what that quality actually is. He refuses to capitulate to what the world considers to be red flags and signifiers. Maybe queer identity isn’t about pandering to disparaging archetypes and caricatures.
Pegasus News Content partner - Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner
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