by Lynn on April 26, 2012

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until April 29. Written and directed by Sky Gilbert. Set and lighting by Andy Morro. Costumes by Sheree Tams. Choreography by Keith Cole in collaboration with Sky Gilbert. Starring: Nick Green, David-Benjamin Tomlinson, and Ryan Kelly.

Presented by the Cabaret Company.

This has been a packed few weeks of theatre and so I wasn’t able to see Sky Gilbert’s latest play, Dancing Queen until now. In this one Gilbert looks at gay romance. The press release describes it best:

“An innovative melding of theatre and dance, Dancing Queen tells the poignant story of an intergenerational double love triangle, and poses scandalous questions about sex, love and monogamy.

Alan is a beautiful and angry young man who moves to the big city and falls in love with Bart, a sought-after, misanthropic older man. In turn, Alan captivates Calder, a successful author who struggles with his feelings for the younger man. Dancing Queen offers a glimpse into the complex world of gay romance—an honest, self aware and unflinching portrayal of gay grand passion laced with poignant and heart-wrenching humour.”

I look forward to seeing that play some day, because Dancing Queen isn’t it. The press release tells me what Gilbert wanted to write, but didn’t. What he has actually written is a superficial, slight look at the easy pickup with no emotion invested by anybody. Alan and Bart pick each other up in a bar, share drugs and hip thrusts then go off for quick sex. Alan wants to be a writer and sends Calder, supposedly a successful writer, a short story. They meet to discuss the work, but Calder is so smitten with Alan’s beauty he can’t function or it seems talk intelligently. Truly between Alan and Calder I don’t know who is the more inarticulate, between their stammering, halting, awkward speech.

And there is a dance component as well to the piece, supposedly to add another level of revelation. The press release again: “Dancing Queen features a series of dance interludes expressing the hopes, fears, dreams and feeling of the characters—funny/serious/laughing/yearning male ballets that speak unabashedly about male romance.”

Oh really? Lots of wishful thinking here—hoping the dance components express those feelings when in fact they don’t. Hoping the play “poses scandalous questions about sex, love and monogamy” when in fact it doesn’t. The reality is that Sky Gilbert’s slight, play does nothing to illuminate. It only annoys, not the least of which is that no character is ever addressed by name in the play, so you don’t know who is who. There is no indication in the program that the cast is in order of appearance. Thank heaven for the press release again.

Andy Moro’s simple set of a winding grand staircase is impressive, as are the side panels. They give this production a sense of class that the play does not. And Sky Gilbert’s direction for the most part is focused on the extreme sides of the stage. Only when a character makes an entrance down the stairs is the centre stage used.

As for the acting, the less said the better—as Alan, Nick Green is mannered; as Bart David-Benjamin Tomlinson is almost emotionally absent; and as Calder, Ryan Kelly gives another one of his over-wrought performances, complete with arms flailing and tears. Dreary.

Dancing Queen plays at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre until April 29.

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