Weeks 26 & 27: Homosexuality Across History, Romance in Rebellion
Updated: Oct 4, 2019
We are back and almost halfway through July. Can you believe it? Our lovely Chicago weather plays tricks on us as always making summer feel like it's just begun as it slips through our fingers. Pride month may be over, but queerness deserves to be celebrated year round. And while it would be trite to say rebellion is always in fashion, there's always a cause to get behind in these foggy times (Get prepped for those 2020 elections, y'all. This is not a time to be slacking.)
Torch Song Trilogy is a quick, queer read to make your commute fly by. When it had its Broadway revival a couple years ago, my interest piqued of why this play was getting its due. I was impressed, but not surprised of the talent that Fierstein possesses as a writer, aside from acting. I breezed through The International Stud, the first of the three, and it garnered enough interest for me to begin reading Fugue in a Nursery. The characterizations are enjoyable, even if the characters themselves are flawed and endlessly complicated. There's always a well placed joke or rat a tat that unfolds that makes reading this work such a delight.
UrbanTheater Company's Back in the Day lives up to its title. This queer AF, 80s' buzzed, fierceness high, 'dancesical' will have you gleaming and grinning. I never felt the term dancesical could apply, but it does have meaning here. Although music is heavily featured, it's not so much a musical as it underscores and elevates moments that are focused on showcasing dancing. Combining several elements of Chicago's history, a young, energetic ensemble of people of color, and based on true events, there's a lot going for this work in progress. Excited to see how it shapes up for its world premiere at UrbanTheater Company's space this fall!
The Other Two is so SO good. It's brilliance is comedically sharp that it's hard to put into words its justification. I can't remember how many times I've consistently laughed out loud at a show other than Crashing (read on for more). It has a fine tailored language of references from Gilmore Girls to practically carving out its in own space on one of the holiest of networks, Bravo. I was constantly pleased and surprised from its celebrity cameos like Wanda Sykes and Patrick Wilson. While its tempo doesn't take its plot too seriously, the amount of character growth and the issues they each face tackle all too relatable deep rooted issues like alcoholism, depression, and homophobia. Get your eyes on this show as you will quickly become obsessed.
prefer not to answer, or other is a play so rare in its intentions, representation, and character depictions. It tells the story of high schooler, Florence, who is still known as Daniel to most of her classmates and more importantly her parents. It's wrapped up in intense dilemmas, heavy emotions, and a strong investment for all of the relationships to blossom instead of shrink. There's a lot of animosity between Flor who struggles in sharing all of herself with her parents and partner, Connor. Yet their shared moments of connection and love make you gush and fan yourself from their sentimentality. There are no villains here and some characters have heroic moments, but ultimately Pak's work offers a portrayal of a family honestly doing their best to grow with one another.
I'm becoming convinced that everything Phoebe Waller-Bridge touches turns to gold. Crashing was her first notable foray into television and while its her simplest set-up, it still shines as brilliant. Bridge brings together a group of flatmates with a love triangle, an artist and her unexpected muse, and a new friendship with heavy homosexual undertones (although one is in great denial). Bridge manages to write and create plausible characters and plots that seem ordinary at first glance like a dinner party or asking for money from a relative. But the expected hijinx or sitcom fare that's established always has moments of vulnerability and connection that almost feel like a car cash when they hit you (but in a good way with little emotional damage). It effects you deeply and makes you clutch at your heart after having had a snicker or guffaw. And while Bridge has gone on to more mature projects that I'm enraptured by, I still can't sit with this ending of how this series could have continued with more episodes. Could we at least get a special or a film? Pretty please?
Gentleman Jack is a show that I'm so glad exists. Having still been in awe to this day of Emma Donoghue's I Know My Own Heart, this HBO series takes similar inspiration from uplifting Anne Lister's diary entries of her affairs, romantic and otherwise. The tones are drastically different, but this show takes me back to the grandeur and closeted lesbian affairs demonstrated in The Favourite. Everything must be so hush hush and even if women are elected to roles of power, there is still such great skepticism and scrutiny of women needing to adhere to femininity rather than enjoy a mix of it with masculinity. Lister's powerful presence is enigmatic from the moment she graces the screen. The way she can outwardly and confidently reject the expectations placed on her during this time is remarkable, and she operates with a chemistry all her own that draws you in. A lavish tale about love that is certain not to run smooth.
Missed our last recap? Look no further. Click here to read about cabaret to cabaret (just kidding, there's more).
36 Questions asks listeners to take many leaps with its concept. There was much buzz around a NY Times article of thirty-six questions that can make you fall in love with a stranger. The popularity of this article is matched with a marriage that's falling apart. And if that weren't enough, Judith has been lying about her identity to Jase the entire duration of their marriage. The reasons for her secrecy are still unclear from Act I, and the charming rapport between Jessie Shelton and Jonathan Groff helps ease over some of its believability. Despite some of its moves feeling forced or questionable, the music proves an asset in gliding things over. The score is smooth, gently moving things along and setting up what's sure to be an intriguing course of events.
My Brilliant Friend is an adaptation I was highly hesitant about, but have restored my faith in. In what has become one of my favorite series of novels, The Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante are not recommended reading, but required. It's a fascinating set of stories that examine female friendship, feminism, and the mix of class and politics in Naples from the 1950s to the early 2000s. It truly checks off all the boxes of what you could possibly be looking for in a television series. There's tragic romance, neighborhood splitting political differences, and also two women navigating their careers from following two separate paths. And without giving too much away, it follows one who leaves home and the one who never left. This series is one of four that will be produced for each novel. There are many adaptations and revivals that have graced our screens, and this one feels so much like a gift it would be a pity to brush it off.
Last week marked an important celebration. Not the Fourth of July, nope, but the return of Stranger Things. Stranger Things is a widely beloved, but scrutinized show. It has great love for its cast and allows it show to be shaped by the talents of their ensemble. This third incarnation gave them a lot to prove after a satisfactory, but often misguided second season. From the first episode, the budgets and stories were stepped up. Minor characters were given major plots and new relationships have become the strongest emulation of the show. Yet, the Duffer brothers still have flaws in recycling similar plot devices and setting up the future of this show in a place that seems difficult to get it back to what made it excel in the beginning. Has Stranger Things peaked this season? We'll presumably find out next season.
I feel I've gone through my whole life knowing what Veronica Mars is about, but apparently I was deeply wrong. Kristen Bell radiates as a frontwoman of the series, where my first consistent exposure of her work has been on The Good Place. Her slacker appearance with badassery on the sly is exactly who I wanted to be high school. You want to be her friend, yet you're also a little terrified so it's best to keep a mutual, but respectable distance that will lessen over time. I knew Veronica would be angsty because it's peak early 2000s, but I wasn't privy to how much trauma she's experienced. She isn't afforded playing up her loner, slacker appearance, but it's inherent from the pain she's had to endure. This show goes beyond typical high school heartache, and drives straight toward intensely harmful experiences from episode one.
We deliberately waited to enjoy in the lovefest that is Head Over Heels, and we're thrilled to have finally made their acquaintance. I'm always down for a musical that's all giggles and glitter, but HOH brings a startling amount of progress beneath its shiny, glamorous exterior presentation. I can't think of the last time I saw a musical where interracial, polyamorous, bisexual, and non-binary love all existed in its unadulterated, overflowing existence. Love truly felt freed from inhibitions and queerness was able to be demonstrated through different relationships instead of just one model. There still are some question marks and jokes that feel a bit dated, but overall this musical breaks ground in more ways than one when it comes to queer representation onstage.
Something Clean addresses sexual assault, but from an unexpected angle. This show deals with the aftermath of a case with neither the perpetrator or survivor heard or seen. The parents of the perpetrator are instead the focal point with a new friendship that blooms when Charlotte volunteers at a sexual prevention center. All the pieces of this puzzle of course raises many red flags and it's unsurprising which shoes will inevitably drop. The play ultimately feels like it's treading water in talking about a topic through a certain reality without taking a stance on it. This one I need some time to reflect on whether its intention delivers or leaves some conversation to be desired.
Until next time! Watch out for rats and boys' asses you might need to dump.