Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Gay American

By Kristian O’Hare

The Gay American

Directed by Allison Shoemaker

Produced by The Ruckus

At The Side Project Theatre

Silly, unfunny farce fails to deliver

The Ruckus theatre  is trying the ‘off-night’ (Sunday thru Wednesday) format with a cheap ticket price ($10) to lure theatre patrons to their world premiere farce – The Gay American.  Unfortunately, Kristian O’Hare’s play is a dud. The Gay American is an uneven hybrid that tries to be a farce and a docudrama but only delivers a series of short scenes that only succeeds as an offensive, foul-mouthed insult to gay men.

This show isn’t remotely funny  and the packed house of family and friends of The Ruckus found little to laugh at. The show tries to parody former New Jersey governor James McGreevey (Neal Starbird) and former congressman Mark Foley (Walter Brody). Both were gay men whose playing with teenage boys led to their downfall.  The show is filled some of the most offensive references to gay sex that garners cheap laughs.  The explicit descriptions of gay sex was a tastelessly attempt at banal humor.

The Gay American

Trying to mix docudrama with farce and/or black humor is a tricky business that necessitates sophisticated writing with skilled action with a clear focus. None of these elements are present here. There is no one to cheer for in this sketch-like hybrid. We quickly loathe James McGreevey and the pedophile Mark Foley. Dina McGreevey (Julie Cowden) is a soar-faced woman who hates her husband and her baby. Morag McGreevey (Stevie Chaddock) is the rebellious teen who enjoys cutting herself. The robot-like aid, Page (Aaron Dean) is loyal to the governor buy he pines for Morag. Patty (Elise Mayfield) is the loud mouth friend of Dina who screams her way through her scenes much to our dissatisfaction.  Perhaps the only  character to somewhat win us over is the gay aid/waiter Philly Buster (the talented Freddie Donovan). Then again, he is a cliched gay teen who is a sex slave, waiter, hustler, and  tap dancer. Ha?

The Gay American

This 2 hour farce want-to-be has neither manic pace nor the physical humor nor the sharp-edged absurdest tone or a deus ex machina twist of the plot to fuel the humor. The movement back and forth from parody to docudrama fell shallow. Better to pick an extreme comic style throughout than to slow the pace with several thoughtless dramatic speeches and pontifications.  The over use of raw descriptions of gay sex  doomed the show for me. Gay men will be offended by this show.  The show plays like a series of underdeveloped sketches. This shows needs to be rethought.

Not Recommended

Tom Williams

At The Side Project Theatre, 1439 W. Jarvis, Chicago, IL, call 773-769-7257, Monday May 17, Tuesday May 18, Wednesday May 19, Sunday May 23, Monday May 24, Tuesday May 25, Wednesday May 26 – all performances at 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission.

2 thoughts on “The Gay American

  • I think its unfortunate that this young company seems to lack focus. They claim to be collaborative and interested in American art and new works–yet they do a play that has already been seen in Kalamazoo, MI while touting it as a World Premiere; a play that no one in the company seems to believe in, and word in the community is their original company members keep dropping like flies.

    Why do theater if its not for a reason? Especially apparently overblown, self-indulgent theater?

  • I am a gay man and wasn’t offended. I felt the play went a bit too far at times, but it was clearly a talented cast.

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