REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Angry Fags by Pride Films and Plays

By Topher PayneANGRY-FAGS

Directed by Derek Van Barham

Produced by Pride Films and Plays

At the Steppenwolf Garage Rep Series

“To get it better, we must make it better.”

Bait and switch doesn’t work in theatre anymore than in advertising or marketing

Playwright Topher Payne, an Atlanta based actor/playwright, sucks us into a political comedy of manners featuring an incumbent Georgia state senator, Allison Payne (Kelli Walker), who is a liberal out lesbian, running against a right-wing socialite, Peggy Munsgrove (Joan McGrath). Add the two roommate and close friends: Cooper Harlow (James Nedrud) who exchange one-liners and playful banter with Bennett Riggs (Kevin Webb) who is also the senator’s PR person and we have the elements of a smart, fun show.


The early scenes take us into funny gay relationship and cynical political humor. We laugh and grow to empathize with the characters even when Bennett pines for the senator’s chief of staff, Adam Lowell (Jude Hansen). These folks are NOT angry fags but sophisticated, caring souls with ethical scruples to spare – apparently.


But when Bennett’s ex, Sammy, who Coopers doesn’t like, gets beat up after being ‘picked-up’ in a gay bar, the roommates instantly become upset and enraged when the senator refuses to call the attack a ‘hate crime.’ This is where the tone shifts and the play moves from a comedy of manners into a revenge drama and a detective mystery. This sudden shift finds Cooper matter-of-factually (and calmly) informing Bennett that he has just killed Sammy’s attacker while Bennett also calmly acknowledges with “Good.”  This sends the two off on an unfiltered rage as they are determined to “Make it better” (for gays) by taking action – which includes murdering gay-bashing celebrities and the use of bombs.  Talk about a provocative change in plot!


In the early scenes there is no indication that Cooper and Bennett are amoral sociopaths. The moral question about killing others never seems to occur to Cooper and Bennett. Add the fact that Cooper despised Sammy, why would he become revengeful enough to beat the attacker with a full paint can? And, even if Bennett stilled loved Sammy, there is not indication that he was enraged enough to kill his attacker. As presented, Cooper and Bennett were two smart, caring gay men and NOT extremist zealots bent on doing domestic terrorism to make gay life better.  This extreme change comes of as ‘playwright manipulation’ in order to become a cautionary tale about the potential for gays to quickly and easily turn into violent killers to get better treatment from society. Preposterous.

We see Cooper and Bennett escalating into assassins and bombers who also, realizing that they need to cover their tracks, even kill their friend and fellow worker, Kimberly Phillips (Lisa Herceg) , when she discovers evidence of their crimes.  If  Topher  Payne is trying to say that gay men will explode if gay-bashing continues, he sure has not make the case nor presented enough motivation for such action in Angry Fags.


Actually, he goes to extremes to demonstrate the pent-up rage he believes gays have toward straight society by having chief of staff Adam Lowell become a killer to ‘finish’ what Cooper and Bennett have started. Preposterous.

Despite a production that was expertly staged with effective videography  by  Alex Thompson with authentic Southern drawls (nice dialect coaching by Sammi Grant) and terrific acting lead by Kevin Webb, James Nedrud, and Jude Hansen, the manipulative script by Topher Payne is just too much to swallow. I don’t think Payne realized that his play not only offends gays by painting them as amoral closet sociopaths but it could actually feed hatred of gays since some could perceive gay men as potential revenge killers. The consequences of this shocking play may not have been thought through.

This controversial play is a major departure for Pride Films and Plays. They have offered many  terrific works that further their causes and lifestyle in a positive, entertaining manner- unfortunately,  Angry Fags does the opposite.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: March 8, 2015

For more info checkout the Angry Fags page at

As part of the Steppenwolf  Theatre’s Garage Rep  for days and times

In repertory with  Heat Wave and The Walk Across America for MOTHER EARTH