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A play worth seeing about hooking up in a digital age

The beautiful, capable cast of MSM explodes the world of hookups in a digital age in a perfect combination of dance, found-text and tableaus. 

According to Grindr’s website, as of the fall of 2013, the gay hook-up app boasts more than 1.2 million active daily users. The average daily use works out to be two hours. Consider the implications of this: on an average day that is a total of more than 2.4 million hours, which is 100,000 days — in one day. And that’s just one hook-up app. Imagine what the world would be like if each of those million guys spent two hours a day volunteering in the community or lobbying for progressive political change. 

Grindr, as one head of the many-headed beast that is gay hook-up apps, terrifies me, which is why lemonTree creations’ MSM [Men Seeking Men] resonates so powerfully for me. I saw the production during the Fringe Festival last year, and even after seeing the opening-night show I would see it again, without hesitation.

It is important to keep in mind that MSM is a non-narrative show, or maybe non-linear. The beautiful, capable cast blows up the world of hookups in a digital age into a perfect combination of dance, found-text and tableaus. The production is rich with dark imagery, creating an alien world of destructive desire and twisted physicality.

Time and some fine-tuning have improved on the previous production. In the first installment, some parts felt a little long, but the restaging has tightened up that issue and changed some sections and the end for the better. Also notable is a change in casting, with DJ John Caffery creating the bass-heavy soundscape, and Austin Fagan, who is beautiful to watch, dancing and performing.

It’s hard to put into words how the overall show seems that much more cohesive — I feel like I got more out of this production, experienced more. After the performance, company member Ryan G Hinds offered the thought that the cast members have known each other for more than a year and over two productions, which I think brings something really special to the show. As frightening as the material they delve into is, this time around there was an intimacy and tenderness that tempered the strange and dark.

My one quibble with MSM is a philosophical one. Especially given the added dimension of tenderness that has grown with the show, I feel the production is too easy on hook-up culture, especially the more pernicious aspects, like racism and pro-hypermasculinity. MSM doesn’t pass judgment, or it does so wordlessly and leaves it up to the audience to decide what that judgment is. Maybe that’s a success of the show, to make me feel so strongly about a world I have no part in. Regardless, if you missed it the first time around, or even if you’re interested in seeing how a production can evolve, MSM is an artistic experience not to be missed.