Sharply funny, moving, candid looks at LGBTQ lives in 7th annual Gay Play Day

Gay Play Dayan annual festival of short, new plays written by LGBTQ playwrights and their allies—returns to the Alumnae Theatre Studio for two days only. This is the 7th year of the fest for founding AD Darren Stewart-Jones and the GPD team, which this year includes technical director Johnny Salib and Henry Keeler on front of house. The 2018 edition includes two programs, each featuring four short plays: the Lavender Show and the Pink Show. I caught both at opening night last night; here they are, in order of appearance.

THE PINK SHOW (approx. 75 minutes)

Fade to Black. Written/directed by Darren Stewart-Jones. Old Hollywood meets 21st century fandom when aging former Hollywood icon Bedelia Blake (Nonnie Griffin) finds an unexpected #1 fan when she meets Jamie (Nathaniel Bacon), a young gay man volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Largely secluded from the world for some time, Bedelia finds renewed public interest in her life and career as that first meeting evolves into friendship. Also featuring Philip Cairns as Mr. Johnson. Tender and nostalgic; featuring lovely, layered performances from Griffin and Bacon, as Bedelia and Jamie open up and feel at home enough to be their true selves with each other.

Labels. Written/directed by Erika Reesor. Lesbian couple Danny (Leigh Patterson) and Mia (Emily Schooley) live with Danny’s mom and are preparing for her birthday. Already stressed about the situation, when Mia finds a prescription for testosterone in Danny’s jeans, Danny has some serious explaining to do—sparking a series of confessions and revelations about their relationship and beliefs about gender. A funny, poignant and real two-hander; with grounded, engaging performances.

Diamonds on Plastic. Written/directed by Philip Cairns. Doris (Margaret Lamarre), a straight married spitfire of a southern lady of a certain age confides in us about her love of shopping and all things that sparkle—and goes on to open up about a blossoming affair with a childhood friend, also a straight married woman. Confessions of a shopaholic who adores jewels, shoes and surprisingly more; and a hilarious and entertaining performance from Lamarre, who also gives an LOL turn as Doris’s husband.

Point and Click. Written/directed by Steven Elliott Jackson; stage manager/producer Winston Stilwell. Gossiping away on his cellphone, the arrogant, catty photographer Andre (Adam Bonney) talks trash about friends and colleagues while waiting for a male model to arrive at his studio, virtually ignoring Shannon’s (Jim Armstrong) arrival. A sharply funny look at the perceptions of beauty, with schooling on fat shaming and body image; nicely paired casting, with spot on comic timing from Armstrong.

THE LAVENDER SHOW (approx. 65 minutes)

I’ve Just Seen a Face. Written/directed by Kris Davis. Charlie (Sav Binder) and their friend Mel (Chantel Marostica) attend a queer date/games night, hosted by Sage (Kasden Leo Indigo). While Mel gets to know Sage, Charlie has a near miss with Annie (Rose Tuong), but finds an opportunity for a meet cute at the Knit Café, where Annie works and teaches knitting workshops. Charlie is smitten, but how do they tell Annie that they have facial blindness? A sweet queer rom-com vibe; with hilarious, entertaining performances—particularly Marostica’s cynical, edgy comic Mel, and Binder’s adorkably awkward romantic Charlie.

Missed Connections. Written/performed by Mark Keller; directed by Nick May. Single and alone for the past two years after a break-up, a 30-something gay man surfs the Internet for missed connections, in desperate hopes that someone’s noticed him. Beginning to question his own sanity, he reminisces about his past love as he tries to find the courage to find a new one. Full of LOLs and deeply poignant moments that resonate with any lonely soul who’s had their heart broken.

The End is the Beginning. Written by Tina McCulloch; directed by Josh Downing. The relationship dynamics between Elena (Devon Hubka), Vivian (McCulloch) and LeeAnne (Kelly-Marie Murtha) play out in reverse in this brief, dramatic, time-shifting look at the nature of love and alternatives to traditional monogamy. A candid, deconstructed look at coupling in the face of an ongoing relationship; nicely present, intimate work from the cast.

Coming Clean. Written/performed by Laura Piccinin. Part stand-up, part personal storytelling, Piccinin stands behind a mic and tells us her coming out stories (yes, there’s more than one). Sharply observed, tightly delivered—and finding laughter in the pain—for an entertaining and insightful, out and proud ride.

Missed last night? No worries! Gay Play Day runs for two days, continuing today (Saturday, September 8) up in the Alumnae Theatre Studio: the Lavender Show at 3pm and 7pm; the Pink Show at 5pm and 9pm. Get advance tickets online or at the door (cash only).

And keep up with all things Gay Play Day on Facebook and Twitter.

A sexy, funny & poignant look at a gay fanboy’s dream come true – My Dinner with Casey Donovan

Seanna Kennedy Photography Dinner With Casey Donovan Production Shots (20)
Michael De Rose & Nathaniel Bacon in My Dinner with Casey Donovan – photo by Seanna Kennedy Photography

In this world there are only two tragedies; one is not getting what one wants, the other is getting it. – Oscar Wilde

Calvin Limehouse is about to live a gay fanboy’s dream come true: gay porn star/model Casey Donovan is coming to his house for dinner. Thing is, he lives with his parents, who don’t know he’s gay.

Set in the 1970s in a suburban home in Connecticut, The Cabaret Company’s production of Sky Gilbert’s My Dinner with Casey Donovan – directed by Gilbert and running now at the Theatre Passe Muraille backspace – could easily be called The Education of Calvin Limehouse.

The play opens with a clip from a Casey Donovan movie, projected on the back wall of the playing space and featuring Donovan emerging naked from the water like a god to join the naked man sunning himself on the beach. Calvin (Michael De Rose) then sets up the story for us as he nervously paces in front of a pair of phallus-like shrubs, which are sculpted like twin penises sheathed in condoms, the receptacles poking up nipple-like from the tips. When Casey Donovan (Nathaniel Bacon) arrives, Calvin can barely contain himself. And they are blocks away from his home and early for dinner, so they have ample time to get better acquainted as they stroll around the block. Twice. Once they arrive at Calvin’s house, the shrubbery is parted to reveal the family dining table, set for dinner (with shouts to Sheree Tams for the set and costume design).

Of course, hilarity and drama ensue over – and after – dinner. But you’re going to have to go and see that for yourself.

I can tell you that Gilbert has selected an outstanding cast to tell this story. De Rose is adorkable as the neurotic, sexually repressed fanboy; the boldness that Calvin exhibits in extending the invitation to his idol is tinged with a deep-seated insecurity and lack of maturity. Conversely, Bacon’s stunningly handsome Casey is easy-going, calm and confident, both sexuality and otherwise – but even he has his Achilles heel. Elley-Ray is a treat as Calvin’s mom Rita, a congenial and well-meaning but overprotective mother (today, she’d be referred to as a helicopter mom), her heartache and concern revealed when she shares a lovely, intimate and moving scene with Casey. Ralph Small, as Calvin’s dad Charles, gives us a hard-headed, uptight conservative patriarch who is not immune to the charms of their dinner guest, as he and Casey bond over the selection in his wine cellar.

Yep, that Casey Donovan charms the pants off the entire family. But I will say no more. Go see this play.

My Dinner with Casey Donovan is a sexy, funny and poignant look at a gay fanboy’s dream come true. But, as the saying goes: be careful what you wish for.

My Dinner with Casey Donovan runs at the TPM backspace until March 22. Seating is limited – and last night’s opening was sold out – so advance booking is strongly recommended.

Seanna Kennedy Photography Dinner With Casey Donovan Production Shots (148)
Ralph Small, Nathaniel Bacon, Elley-Ray & Michael De Rose in My Dinner with Casey Donovan – photo by Seanna Kennedy Photography