A collaboration between Danielle Georgiou and Justin Locklear, The Show About Men is something of a breakthrough. Parts of it feel tentative, or perhaps not as fluid as it might be, but there is so much that is pleasurable, tickling, genuine and painful, that more than compensates. It feels like a work in process, that is to say : supple and evolving. It begins with two men, gay and straight, talking about playing with Barbie Dolls. For different reasons. The Show About Men cleaves to equanimity. Breeder boys hold no more status than us queer guys, each male character adds his piece to the mosaic. The men start out in their boxers, singing, and dress themselves (and sometimes each other) in ordinary clothes. They dance. It’s not balletic, but perhaps closer to the hybrid acrobatic choreography of West Side Story, except they touch. They engage and embrace (I apologize for my lack of lingo here) but the visual impact of men unafraid of tactile consortium, not especially sensual but not detached, is exhilarating.
The Show About Men examines a number of issues. It’s strongest when it’s frank and nonchalant. During a bouncy number about male genitalia (funnier than Monty Python’s The Penis Song) they start chatting up audience members, provoking raucous and giddy mirth. They talk about issues like machismo, male rape, gay identity, suicide, power and authority. One performer describing the isolated feeling of being gay in a tribe of predominantly heterocentrist males culminates in the classic “trust fall”, from a scary drop. It illustrates the ordeal. If you’re gay you need a sense of brotherhood and belonging. By showing they will protect him it is a reassurance, a demonstrative connection. This also illustrates the hazards of the project. Georgiou and Locklear want to explore these raw issues without lapsing into the kitsch of “touchy-feely” homilies.
A personal monologue about men raping men might have been more effective than the guys sitting in a circle, addressing it like a PSA. Though it worked on its own terms. Again I think Georgiou and Locklear understand the complications here. Ironically, in American culture, when one man rapes another, they at least seem to grasp it’s not about sex. But too many still perceive it as a failure on the part of the victim. Needless to say, these are deeply penetrating, excruciating issues, and it’s tough to know how to tackle them with insight and the precise tone they require. No apologies. No pandering to centuries of patriarchal indoctrination. No camping it up for the rubes. No contempt for tenderness. The Show About Men has gobs of warmth and joviality and quiet astonishing moments. It challenges what we don’t even know we think. Like trying to teach a tiger a word for mercy.
The Show About Men is playing at The Festival of Independent Theaters. Bath House Cultural Center , 521 East Lawther Drive, Dallas, Texas 75218. 1-800-617-6904.