By John Quinn
Early on the morning of June 28, 1969, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people rioted on Christopher Street, NYC, in response to a police raid on a bar, the Stonewall Inn. The unrest marks the beginning of the LGBT rights movement and June is commemorated nationally as Gay Pride Month. Ferndale is not only home to a large LGBT community, it’s also home to the Ringwald Theatre. The company has chosen, for its fourth outing of its “Gay Play Series,” to shake things up a bit.
The theater festival runs all month, and the core of the celebration comes later this June. That would be the One Act Festival, when the Ringwald will feature the eight best of 142 plays submitted by playwrights from around the world.
This year, the company is reviving the three previous winners, cumulatively titled “GPS Threesome.” While originally staged a year apart with different casts and directors, here the trio is presented by one cast and a single director. The ad hoc rep company comprises Christaan Lafata, Alonzo Luzod, Vince Kelley, Julie Spittle and Chris Stepnitz, under the direction of Kathleen Lietz. Ringwald artistic director Joe Bailey says, “We really wanted a chance to produce these shows in a manner that was different than what audiences may have already seen during the individual competitions.” It’s an intrepid experiment, but it has yielded mixed results.
First up is “My Dull Friend,” an odd-ball comedy by local playwright Margaret Edwartowski. In a delightful skewering of Internet sites like Match.com, the very uptight Emily (Spittle) uses the web site GayBestFriend to meet flamboyant Michael (Kelly). They represent polar stereotypes – the boring girl, the outrageous gay guy. Do opposites attract? Can Emily ever forgive Michael for setting her up (in more ways than one) for a blind date in hell with Mark (Stepnitz)? This is the most successful romp of the evening, due largely to Edwartowski’s finely tuned ear for comic dialogue.
Kristian O’Hare’s “Fanny Packs and Hanky Codes” was the audience favorite in 2012. It is also the only one of the three plays I had seen before, and therein lays a tale. Title notwithstanding, this is not the play I reviewed last year. Whole scenes and characters have been jettisoned, and those remaining are choppy and disjointed. Moreover, what had been a balanced comparison between rocky relations, both straight and gay, now focuses more on the breakup of Monty (Kelly) and his girlfriend Melissa (Spittle). Lost in translation is Alonzo Luzod’s Dennehey, a gay guy facing the prospect of aging all alone. Christaan Lafata plays three characters under the collective name “No-Holds-Barred,” a moniker that meant something in the original script, but nothing here. Worse, the plot still implies that the three characters are entirely different types, with only their gender and orientation in common. A single actor can’t deliver that distinction.
“A Few Survivors,” Jason Sebacher’s 2011 winner, is an absurdist piece in the tradition of Beckett and Albee. Robert Such (Luzod) travels half way around the world to reignite an old – and I do mean old – relationship with reluctant Grover Glover (Stepnitz). Sebacher’s use of language is the salvation of a rather predictable “will he or won’t he” plot.
To fill out 90 minutes, the entire cast reassembles to present a slap-dash, less than 10 minute parody of “Les Miserables” titled “Gay Miz,” as if the musical hasn’t entered the realm of self-parody on its own. It’s a wig-flipping, character-bending piece of silly camp that continues the Ringwald brand of screwball summer humor.
‘2013 Gay Play Series: GPS Threesome’
The Ringwald Theatre, 22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Friday-Monday through June 24. $10 per event, or $20 City Pass or $30 Threeway Pass. Check http://www.theringwald.com for a complete list of festival events.