MY REVIEW OF STREET THEATER: A PLAY ABOUT STONEWALL
Last night I caught a completely hysterical play about Stonewall called Street Theater. There are only three shows left and I highly recommend that you RUN to The Eagle to catch this gem. But before I can recommend it to anyone in today’s hyper PC climate, I have a stern warning for you.
You see, many have just orchestrated a boycott of the Roland Emmerich’s Stonewall movie because they didn’t like the way the director took liberties with the story by using a white cisgender male as the lead. I agreed–it looked silly. The NY Times review said: “Its invention of a generic white knight who prompted the riots by hurling the first brick into a window is tantamount to stealing history from the people who made it.” And Hollywood really needs to get the memo that we aren’t as dumb as they think we are. We don’t need every lead role to be good-looking and young. Hello? Misery? I’m surprised that they didn’t give the white male lead a female love interest–that’s the typical Hollywood formula. The Oscar-nominated The Imitation Game was about a nerdy, gay genius and they even gave him a female love interest because straight America can’t sit for two hours without a boy-meets-girl theme. Even a gay boy? How dumb!
But even as I scoffed at Stonewall the movie, I do remember a time when a major feature about the birth of gay lib in the US would be praised simply because someone was telling our story on a grand scale. Now we take issue with how it’s told and urge others to boycott anything we dislike. Many boycotted a Paris Is Burning screening in Brooklyn this summer because they claimed that the director exploited the subjects and a white dj and bands geared to attract white hipsters were booked on the same day as the screening. I had to laugh at trans activists of color who were screaming about shutting this screening down–when the film is a rare and brilliant glimpse at the trans women of color from NYC which has inspired so many for decades. They’ll gripe if they aren’t in your movie and they’ll gripe if you show a movie they’re starring in paired with the wrong musical acts. Or if a white real girl makes the film. Bizarre.
The reason I mention all this is that this very well-done play takes it’s own liberties with the Stonewall story. In fact, Street Theater’s program quotes the artistic director as saying about the writer Doric Wilson “His vision is unique among Stonewall chroniclers in that Street Theater is not so much a play about what happened as it is about what made it happen.” And in fact, the entire show builds up to the actual riot and ends at it’s beginning. So Doric takes fictional characters which give you an idea of the types of people and situations which led up to the altercations.
WHAT? Writer Doric Wilson is guilty of the same thing Roland Emmerich is? Taking liberties with our histories? BOYCOTT STREET THEATER AT ONCE!
Does it make any difference to you that the playwright was present at all three nights of the Stonewall Rebellion? Does that give him the right to do what we judged Emmerich so harshly on?
There were no trans people in cast–should we boycott? There is a trans person in the crew and she is a trans person of color. Does that count? And no, it isn’t “trans erasure” to not mention her name. Maybe she doesn’t want to be outed as trans.
Out of a cast of fourteen, there was one black and one latino actor. Do we denounce this play as whitewashing history?
The non-stop hilarious jokes could be problematic–does making any joke about Stonewall make light of the plight of trans people, the homeless and drug addicts who hung out at the bar and in the Village? Oooh, ya can’t be too careful nowadays.
The choice is yours–do you want to be told what to think and simply obey? Or do you want to be able to enjoy a totally enjoyable look at a pivotal moment in gay rights–written, acted and directed with aplomb?
I was floored by this production. For chrissakes, it was at The Eagle! Not my scene but cherished gay safe place complete with safe words for sure. And this chestnut, written in 1982 was first presented at The Mineshaft (!) in 1983. No wonder the humor is so raucously funny. I think plays in leather bars are an insane idea, and as gay hook-ups leave the bars for the internet, we may see more creative ways to pack our former cruise spots with (gasp!) culture. I giggled when Johnathan Cedano, who plays a crazed revolutionary, told me that some of the genetic females in the cast were a little off put by the smell of urine in this new theatrical venue. Just tell them that The Eagle is piss-elegant now that they have shows and such! And honey, anything from the Mineshaft which is still alive needs to be celebrated as not only part of gay history, but as having a miraculously resilient immune system. Let’s be real!
She may not be trans and he may not even like being called a she, but actor Michael Lynch is a Class A scene-stealer as drag/trans hooker Boom Boom. I don’t know where Michael Lynch is on the gender scale. But it’s delivery was on par with Good Times’ Florida and Willona and The Jeffersons’ Weezy Jefferson and Helen. When you can get belly laughs from just a double take, just imagine the scenery this queen chewed with great material to deliver. The program says the actor “is a mite possessive of this role” which he originated in 1983. As he should be. Michael’s one of those actors like Billy Porter who don’t always do drag, but when they choose to they can outshine many full-time drag queens with all of their magic. Boundless stage presence. And a great chemistry with the daffy white drag queen/trans hooker played by Chris Andersson.
The whole cast was terrific, but stand-outs included Eilis Cahill as a drugged out hippie chick, Rebecca Nyahay as a belligerent bulldagger and Jeremy Lawrence playing a closet case cruising for rough trade to perfection. Though the Eagle may be spartan and I don’t love folding chairs, these are legitimate actors all knocking it out of the park with dynamite material. DO NOT MISS! Only three more performances left tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7PM. Tix are $18 and well worth every penny.
MORE INFO/TIX: http://www.tososnyc.org