Friday, August 10, 2012
Theater review part deux: The Importance of Being Lovely at Addison Theatre Center
MBS Productions' latest show is raucous and earthy.
While I haven’t seen every show by MBS Productions (at the Stone Cottage in Addison) I know that when they are firing on all cylinders, it can make for a very gratifying evening. A corrupt yet influential pope, a sinister death angel, a retelling of the Eden myth, are just a few of the intriguing and tantalizing narratives explored by MBS. Lately they’ve been navigating the realm of sexual satire (Outrageous, Sexy (Nekkid) Romp, 2 Couples 2) a genre with capacity for uncovering truth while still being deliciously entertaining. Sex can make an excellent magnifying glass for subconscious motivation, but using it well is like juggling Molotov Cocktails. I think the familiar adage that comedy is far more difficult than drama applies, because of the nuance needed for sophisticated humor. Though perhaps even slapstick requires precise timing. Also, what we find amusing can be more personal than what makes us sad. We can all agree the death of a child is sad, but would everyone laugh if a dowager slipped on a freshly waxed floor?
The Importance of Being Lovely retrieves two characters from the previous show Outrageous… - Casey, a young, attractive gay man, and Lovely Uranus, a drag queen and occasionally, Casey’s lover. At the outset of Importance… Casey (Dylan Peck) is still trying to recover from the menage a’ trois between Keith, Lovely and himself. Into the mix comes Randy (Richard S. Blake) a devious, closeted psychiatrist, who treats patients at the gay men’s retirement home where Lovely often entertains. He deftly, separately seduces Lovely and Casey, leading them to believe he’s just a tortured, impulsive romantic, trapped in a doomed hetero attachment. The plot raises questions such as: the effect of promiscuity on one’s character, the extent of one’s responsibility, and relinquishing cynicism. Beyond that, Importance tries to dissect the buried reasons behind our actions. The friend we avoid (for example) because he reminds us of a failed relationship.
Mark-Brian Sonna’s work as Lovely Uranus is enjoyable, and seems to have acquired some fairy dust since Lovely’s debut appearance. Drag is about so much more than looking funny or comfortable or convincing or attractive in women’s clothes. It’s a commentary about gender: expectations, privileges, archetypes, demeanor, etc., and requires a certain kind of magic, or really, sorcery. Apart from a confusing conversation between Casey and Randy regarding propriety and pronouns, I felt Sonna’s characterization of Lovely was well-realized and conceived. She’s clever, frank, savvy, natural, and without pretense. I was surprised how outlandish she could be in her choice of finery, and still manage to be so poignant and richly affecting.
Importance, to my mind, is one of playwright Alejandro de la Costa’s most successful endeavors in farce, with a pleasant blend of wit, pathos, incisiveness and eye-candy. Costa still needs to work on distillation and concision (two vital ingredients for banter and wisecracking) but this current show is brimming with effusive energy, candor, and smoking hot comic eroticism. A lot of unpleasant, messy revelations come out during the course of the show, under the guise of hijinks, and it works well. One of the aspects of Costa that I find so admirable is the way he challenges our presuppositions about queer culture. Another is his forthright, nonchalant method of dealing with same-gender coupling. The men in Importance flirt and bungle and say ridiculous things and get all sloppy just like straight men do, and (lo and behold) it’s just No Big Deal. The mere process of presenting such actions on a stage shows a lot more vision than we’ve (sadly) come to expect here in the often profoundly disappointing 21st Century. Straight couples have been getting busy for audiences since Shakespeare’s day.
Pegasus News Content partner - Christopher Soden, Dallas GLBT Arts Examiner
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