Drama, debate, deception & delirium in Gay Play Day

GayPlayDay2014logoGay Play Day Artistic Director Darren Stewart-Jones launched the opening of the third annual LGBTQ theatre festival in a packed house in the Alumnae Theatre Studio space last night.

What is Gay Play Day? It’s a festival of short, original LGBTQ-themed plays. Stewart-Jones wanted to create a space for LGBTQ stories and, much like Alumnae Theatre’s New Ideas Festival, Gay Play Day gives playwrights a chance to try out new works on stage in front of an audience. And the studio theatre at Alumnae is the perfect place to do that.

This year’s Gay Play Day features five short plays, ranging from 10 to 30 minutes in length, as well as a broad spectrum of the LGBTQ experience:

Wordplay (written and directed by Jess Bryson and Nick May, with assistant director Martin Whelan). Restaurant co-worker BFFs gay guy Nick and straight gal Jess (played by the playwrights) are polishing silverware and dishing on co-workers in the wee hours of their shift when the discussion turns to a debate about identity and oppression. Funny and thought-provoking, with mercurial dialogue and a sharp pop culture sensibility, this play features very strong and engaging performances from Bryson and May.

I’m With AIDS (written and directed by Warren Wagner). A gay man’s (Ryan Anning) account of the events that led to office hate mail and the subsequent decision to leave his job. Anecdotes weave in and out of confessions as deception and secrets are revealed. A lovely, candid and sharply witty performance from Anning, with some pointed social references.

What Ida Said (by David Bateman and Philip Cairns, directed by Durango Miller). Daphne (Cairns) and Frida (Peter Lynch) are getting ready for dinner. As Daphne dresses into a yellow gown, he recounts some disturbing news he received from Aunt Ida, an upsetting revelation about his true relationship to Frida. Cairns does a beautiful transformation in and out of drag; part Blanche Dubois, part Bette Davis – Daphne is a drama queen of the highest order. Lynch’s Frida is wryly funny and exceedingly patient – but not taking any crap from Daphne – as he attempts to bring the voice of reason to the forefront of their conversation. A sweet, absurdly funny and poignant portrait of an aging gay couple.

Euchred (by Megan Hutton, directed by Debbie Deer). A Euchre game between four women sets the scene for an evening of personal history storytelling and strengthened camaraderie as they discuss identity, personal struggles, being of a certain age – and dealing with societal expectations of womanhood and femininity. Some nice work from this ensemble cast: Samantha Lauzon (fierce fashion, brave transgender gal Stephanie), Shannon Maunder (sweet, nurturing immigrant Lena), Jillian Rees-Brown (irreverent, wry-witted butch gal Sophie) and Jorie Morrow (pensive, still writer Pat).

Pees and Qs (written and directed by Josh Downing). The rules of the men’s room intersect with corporate etiquette in this sharp, short comedy of manners and coming out – where the action plays out along a row of urinals. Really nice work by this cast: Ryan Egan as the homophobic boss Hank, Michael Lake as the pee-shy Paul and Joseph Jr. Yeboah as the desperate to pee Steve (who also turns out to be the most well-adjusted of the trio).

So there you have it. Drama, debate, deception and delirium in five touching, funny and thoughtful new LGBTQ-themed plays.

Gay Play Day has two more performances today (Sat, Sept 27) at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. You can get tickets online or at the door.

Department of Corrections: In an earlier version of this post, incorrect character names were ascribed to Jillian Rees-Brown, Shannon Maunder and Jorie Morrow; this error has since been corrected.

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Author: life with more cowbell

Arts/culture social bloggerfly & Elwood P. Dowd disciple. Likes playing with words. A lot. Toronto

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