Toronto
6 min

FRAYED BUT STILL STRONG

THE BUTLER DIDDLED IT. Lisa Lambert (middle) is surrounded by musical-lovin' funsters (clockwise) Scott Anderson, Nick Johne, John Mitchell, Bob Martin and Jen Whalen, of The Drowsy Chaperone. Credit: Image by Xtra files

With a good script and strong actors, you’re 80 percent there. The old entertainment adage will be put to the test – or at least a score of actors will be – when numerous belletristic big wigs and their classic homo texts are thrust onto Fringe stages this year.



The literary largesse is kicked off by Elise Moore. Her award-winning play Live With It (staged last year at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre) was inspired by John Lahr’s biography of Joe Orton.



This time, the Winnipegger has turned her sights on the very queer relationship of lesbian Jane Auer – better known as Jane Bowles – and her gay husband, Paul Bowles.



“I write plays about the devoted antagonism between people,” says Moore. “It’s my ideal relationship.



“As opposed to Ken [Halliwell] and Joe [Orton],” says Moore. “where early on Ken dominates the relationship and then Joe takes over… the question of who dominates is never settled between Jane and Paul. Just as it’s never settled if Jane is mad or not.”



Set in Tangiers in 1968 when Paul is faced with sending Jane to a sanitorium against her wishes, Non Sequitur returns to their first meeting in 1937 and traces their tempestuous relationship over the years.



“While some people see only the sick dependency in the relationships I write about, I see the positive side. With Paul and Jane it was the intellectual delight they had in one another. It lasted their whole life together even though they were total opposites.”



Non Sequitur, starring Sarah Neville and David Mavid Macniven and directed by Robert Dodds, plays at the Robert Gill Theatre (214 College St) beginning at 9:30pm on Thu, Jul 1. Call (416) 929-7051.



The New York City-based Red Poppy Theatre Company serves up Jean Genet’s classic, The Maids, about two sisters who work for the same mistress. A murderous game ensues after they try on Madame’s clothes.



“I’ve always been fascinated by the writing and persona of Genet,” says artistic director Hillary Spector. “His work is so rich, risky, bizarre and homoerotic. It resonates very strongly with me.



“My company looks for strong poetic texts that aren’t readily produced. With The Maids, I’m also able to plum the text for my strong movement and gestural approach.



“When I produced this play two years ago, I focussed on the sisters’ violence and pain. This time, more of the love and the eroticism between the sisters comes up – and how Madame inspires in them a palpable, juicy imagination.”



Spector directs Janine Miskulin, Nedra Gallegas and Joanna Conway. The Maids is presented at the Glen Morris Studio (4 Glen Morris St) beginning at 9:30pm on Thu, Jul 1.



On the Canadian front is Remember Me by Michel Tremblay. Bradley Garrick who stars as one of two ex-lovers crossing paths three years after their break up, also produces this new Fringe production.



“I discovered Remember Me when I was in university 11 years ago,” says Garrick. “Something really spoke to me. After a long relationship there’s all this left over energy. You can either cut it off – but that’s like losing a limb – or you can transform it. Gay, straight or whatever, when the relationship ends, the same question faces everyone.”



The two lovers originally break up because one has sex outside the relationship. “Even though the play is 20 years old,” says Garrick, “it’s still very modern, addressing the question of what is cheating? Is it emotional, physical or something else?”



Remember Me stars Garrick and Gary Brennan and is directed by Alison Lawrence. It plays at the Poor Alex (296 Brunswick Ave) beginning at 10:30pm on Thu, Jul 1. Call (416) 862-2222.



Other literary classics getting the Fringe treatment include an adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus, performed by David Dodsley, Maria Belic and Mima Vulovic and directed by Sasha Lukac, opens at 3:30pm on Fri, Jul 2 at the Royal St George’s College (120 Howland).



Also, Dr Faustus Lights The Lights by Gertrude Stein is performed by Glen Gaston and Michelle Polak and directed by Jennifer Tarver. It plays at The Royal St Geoerge’s College begininng at 8pm on Fri, Jul 2.







There are countless other bent offerings at the Fringe. Here’s an erratic cross section (check the catalogue for others):



• After successful runs in New York and Montreal (where it won the Fringe fest best comedy award) Susan Jeremy’s Was That My 15 Minutes? makes its Toronto Fringe debut.



The Long Island lesbian had been eking out a living on the Yuk Circuit when she first conceived the show, partly to escape the rigid math of the one-minute joke. “Comedy audiences tend to drink themselves silly. I do this show to have contact, to be heard by an audience that awake and listening.”



As expected, 15 Minutes? documents Jeremy’s sweaty, desperate quest for notoriety, and the sequence of events which led her to a healthier perspective on celebrity. “I took a job at Radio City, fully expecting to be promoted to Rockette within minutes. I had an incredible drive to be famous. Now I’d like to be like Jessica Lange – famous, but living on a farm.”



The surprisingly poised, thoughtful Jeremy is quick to praise her director/co-writer, Mary Fulham, who helped her to focus her newly philosophical outlook on life and art. “She helped me re-write my life story, essentially. So much of the material is so personal -coming out to my father [Frankie Lawrence, a native of Montreal who introduced the mambo to America], dealing with his death – and she gave me the perspective to find the humour and continuity in the material.”



Good-time dykes looking for a fun night out needn’t fear; for all her poignant family reminiscence, Susan Jeremy is no Yentl. “Bring on the lezzies!” she exhorts. “This show is totally friendly and inclusive! I just came off an Olivia Cruise and they loved it!”



Was That My 15 Minutes? plays at the Poor Alex beginning at 10:30pm on Fri, Jul 2.





• Dating The Pirate is a remount of a Rhubarb production written by Phil Hutchins. The one man show (performed by Geroge Krebs) examines the limited life of a rather pathetic barfly, Johnny, who enters into a competition at Club Concubine for the title of Madame Barman, which goes to whomever patronizes the bar for the most consecutive days. Twenty-two years later, after the only other competitor develops gangrene and has to go the hospital, Johnny wins the crown.



“It’s a dark comedy about the emptiness of a life totally immersed in the bar scene, with its polygamy and superficiality,” says Hutchins. Directed by Shawn Campbell (The Crackwalker, Steel Kiss), Dating The Pirate plays at the Poor Alex (296 Brunswick Ave) beginning at 1:30pm on Fri, Jul 2. Call (416) 862-2222.



• Lie With Me is inspired by the true story of Brandon/Teena, a young woman who lives as a man and upon discovery, is raped and killed.



For writer Victoria Goring, the play is as much about media as it is about gender.



“The way media spins a story, it’s connected to the way people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear,” says Goring, who also play the lead character called Alex. “It’s connected to how someone like Brandon could get away with living as a woman.”



Lie With Me plays at one of the Fringe fest “bring your own venues,” at the Bloor JCC Nursery Playground beginning at 8:30pm on Thu, Jul 1.



• Prolific theatrical troublemaker Sky Gilbert has a new offering, The Birth Of Casper G Schmidt, a comedy starring Clinton Walker as an old fashioned homo whose obsessive compulsive disorder kicks into high gear during a visit with a straight but not narrow couple (Moynan King and Brendand Wall). With Gilbert directing, the play opens at The Tarragon Theatre Extra Space (30 Bridgman Ave) at 9pm on Fri, Jul 2. Call (416) 862-2222.



• Mr Raisin Head, a one woman show about a lascivious male stuck in his bathroom mirror, has won writer performer Erika Batdorf raves in New York City. Playing at the Royal St George’s College. Call (416) 462-2222.



• Nils Rolvaag (The Looksist) points to the infamous Rev Phelps as someone addressed by Broken, his play examining why someone would try to “cure” their gayness and other warped states of mind. Broken is at the Glen Morris Studio beginning at 11pm on Fri, Jul 2.



• Dan Dilks has written and directs The Court Jester, where a lonely gunman (Peter Evans) and his Chatty-Cathy moll (Pamela Redfern) take the audience hostage. Jim Corbett gets to play Dilks, the playwright, in case things get ugly. With Christine Quayle. The Court Jester starts at 6pm on Fri, Jul 2 at The Tarragon Theatre Extra Space.



• Dyke City stalwart Shoshana Sperling presents her solo debut The Golden Mile about a small community’s attachment to an ill-fated shopping mall. Directed by comic master Ed Sahely, The Golden Mile plays at The Royal St George Theatre. Call (416) 534-5919.