Posted by David
I recently attended a performance of Another Dude's Slingbacks, which opened at the 13th Street Repertory Theatre on Friday, March 5. My initial impression was that this would be one of those god-awful "gay plays" chock full of stale jokes, bad acting and telegraphed plot points. Thankfully I was completely wrong.
Another Dude's Slingbacks is the story of a beleagured high school gay boy who is able to enact what is probably every gay kid's ideal revenge/fantasy, to magically transform the bullying jock homophobe into a flaming queen. What happens next is completely opposite of everyone's expectations.
I've seen more than my share of "gay plays" that tell the same tired old story and have this noblesse oblige about themselves that implies that gay audiences are required to attend and adore their play merely because they feature men kissing, drag queens prancing and boys with their shirts off. This play is a blessed relief from all that.
Kudos go first and foremost to the playwright, Andrew Black, for taking a predictable storyline and turning it on its head, while simultaneously actually having something to say. I don't want to give any surprises away but the plot refreshingly steers away from stock character types and throws in more than a few pleasant twists.
Next, director Lillian Z. King has guided her talented young cast to create a very solid and consistent high school world. Often times, especially in small-scale productions, it is a struggle to have all the actors on the same page regarding what kind of aesthetic to bring to the play. She has also had made extremely effective use of the very small stage at 13th Street Rep. She is supported by an excellent design team. The bare-bones set design by Amanda Kullman, (who was also in charge of costumes) smartly handles the many different locations of the play's action, and should win an award for multi-tasking. The same can be said for Brian Fortin's effective but simple lighting design.
Lastly, but certainly not least, the cast. As the nebishy, put-upon, gay high schooler, Jakob Abrams is both sympathetic and properly annoying as he wears his mantel of victimhood until it is in tatters. As the jock who is transformed, Brian Crawford Scott really does an outstanding job. Too often (and forgive me if I go on about these things) the actor playing the straight-turned-gay - or vice versa - is convincing as one but utterly unbelievable as the other. Mr. Scott does a great job making both sides of his coin fully fleshed and real. In the unreal department, Eric Love is outstanding as the fairy godmother. This kind of role is always dangerous to take on and the temptation to slide into self-parody, or instead to play too safe, is ever-present. However, Mr. Love totally commits himself to the part and makes the character live and breath his fabulousness.
Honorable mention must also go to Olivia Gilliatt as the gal-pal Barbra, Christopher J. P. Smith as the dumb-as-a-rock friend Meatwad, and Spenser Gensey as Devon, the enigmatic new kid in town. All three gave charming and three-dimensional performances.
The entire cast should also be commended for being one extremely tight ensemble. One of my few quibbles with the play was that there were entirely too many scene changes, but the cast pulled each one off with military-like precision, and the sound design by Ray Padgett helped to keep things flowing so the constant shifts never slowed the action down.
My only other issues were that the play ends with a few loose ends unaddressed. But maybe that's a good thing, with the playwright avoiding tying all things up too prettily. Still, I'd have liked some kind of resolution regarding the new kid's storyline. Also, I have to say that of all elements of the show, I liked the title of the play the least. It makes for a catchy poster photo-op, but just didn't seem to fit with the actual storyline.
But these are minor complaints. Overall this production far exceeded my expectations. Performances run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April 4th at the 13th Street Repertory, 50 West 13th Street. For tickets call Theatremania at (212) 352-3101or click here.