In honor of Trans-Awareness Week, I propose a little exercise. It won’t take long, and I’d be the last person on the planet to ever actually suggest burning any calories, so rest assured, this will be painless. Now, here goes: imagine the most flamboyant, Madonna-loving, gayest of gay guys your imagination has ever mustered. Stretch far. Think Jack of “Will and Grace” — times a babillion. Past that YSO Godfather boy with the eyeliner. Past Cher. Oh, is she actually female? Well, whatever — anyway, take your masterpiece of a (wo)man and throw in zebra-print, hot pink, disco lights and neon-colored, penis-shaped pillows(/phones/Holy Christ, the entire stage is a penis!) and you’ve got “Gay Play,” the Yale Cabaret’s risqué and hysterical play about coming out of everything but the closet.
Written by Gonzalo Rodriguez Risco DRA ’09 and directed by Michael Walkup DRA ’09, “Gay Play” is the hyperbolic portrait of a star drag queen, Didi Coquette (played by John Doherty DRA ’10), and her B.G.G.F. (Best Gay Girlfriend Forever!), Joseph (Michael Walkup DRA ’09). Spending the weekend at a friend’s luxurious place that is very well fit to be the lair of the queen of queers, Didi and Joseph begin the play the same way two teenage girls would begin a routine sleepover: innocent gossip about men and makeup are the most prevalent topics of conversation — complemented, that is, by Didi’s ever-enduring determination to try to playfully make out with Joseph, who insists on keeping the entire affair PG-rated (well, as PG as anything could possibly be in a room full of alcohol, dildos and an assortment of other male appendage-shaped objects). The two truly seem like a pair of adorable, best girlfriends — they’ve even got the dance routine to “Vogue” down. But halfway through their weekend of revelry, things take a sudden and unexpected turn that no one could ever have seen coming.
Acutely self-aware, “Gay Play” offers commentary through hyperbolic comedy that is especially poignant in light of the mass of discriminating, Californian bigots who voted “yes” on Prop 8 last Tuesday. Besides its almost sarcastically exaggerated depiction of Didi and of gay men in general, the play, for example, has the two characters realize early on that whenever they utter a female singer’s name (Madonna, Barbara Streisand, et al.), the Cabaret’s lights will dim and the sound system will begin blasting one of said artist’s most famous songs. In an equally self-conscious way, Didi, despite his status as the queerest queen in the history of drag, exerts a force on Joseph that is as intense and irrational as something we might expect from a homophobe. As a result of Didi’s effort to make Joseph comply with his own interpretation of what’s “normal,” the play effectively presents the perils of the imposition of one’s beliefs on others — no matter what those beliefs actually are or who they come from.
With spectacular acting from Doherty in particular, who manages to portray both the parody and the humanity of his extravagant character, and a stage that literally has a life of its own, this particular production of the Cabaret’s stands out as a must-see. While it does happen to be timely and appropriate in the context of recent events around America, the message that the play communicates to its audience is truly a simple one. As a fast-talking Latino male stripper in military costume (well, who starts out in a military costume anyway) says, “The world need people” — not gays, straights or any other classification of human being. So if you’re in the process of coming out of anything — the closet, your inhibitions, your fears or your clothes — “Gay Play” is for you.
“Gay Play” runs at the Yale Cabaret (217 Park Street) tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.