I had been putting it off for a few days, but last night I finally made reservations to head back to the Bartell Theatre downtown for Stage Q’s “Queer Shorts 2.0: The Reboot.” I say “finally” because Old Lazybones Me had been planning to take in the show yet kept putting off buying tickets. And when I did finally make my reservation yesterday, it was for this afternoon’s final showing. Yep, it was a matinee performance; no Friday Night excitement has I had been planning for. Still, though, attending “Queer Shorts” was worth it no matter the starting time.
If you don’t remember my description from my review of “Queer Shorts 10” from one year ago, “Queer Shorts” is a production of Stage Q, which specializes in the production and staging of LGBTQ-oriented plays and performances, including their mini-play showcase “Queer Shorts.” Why did they call it “Queer Shorts 2.0: The Reboot”? Well, it wasn’t a “reboot” of the show’s format of any sort. Rather, each of the 9 plays had a unifying theme (some direct, others obliquely) about how technology and social media affects the LGBTQ community.
So how was the show? Well, it was hit-and-miss, and each mini-play should, fairly and understandably, be judged on their own individual merits. Here was the rundown in performance order:
Thank You for Liking My Check In – This felt like Queer Short’s appetizer, short in length (just over 5 minutes, or so it felt) and sweetly acted. Not to mention meta: Alex tells his fellow Stage Q usher Justin that he wants to see other… wait for it… social networks. Yep, he wants to lay off of Facebook for a while and check out Twitter. This makes Justin a little bit jealous.
That’s Not Me – The second play in the lineup really grabbed my attention with its subject matter. A trans couple (that’s them in the photo at right) record the latest episode of their trans issues-related web show for “Q-Tube” (Stage Q’s nod to a certain video website). Remy (played by Loryn Jonelis) is the female-to-male half of the couple; Alison (portrayed by recent UW grad Troy Meikle) is the fab-looking male-to-female. There’s humor, snark, and wit laced throughout “That’s Not Me” (especially from Alison), but don’t think that it’s entirely a laugh fest: It deals with the subject of seeking a perfect form of gender identity. Remy sticks up for the gender-variable people in the world, laying it right out on the table that becoming the perfect version of the gender you feel you are is not attainable; to that end, Remy announces (spoiler alert) that he will de-transition. This upsets Alison, who takes pride in her appearance and the hormones and implants that got her there, side effects be dammed. By the end, the audience sees a relationship sadly and perhaps irretrievably fractured, and is left with the realization that there are no set ways or easy answers when it comes to gender transitioning. The writing of Steve Jay treats all sides of the issue fairly and with wit, while the performances of Jonelis and Meikle (the latter displaying fierce femininity in poise and voice) made this play entertaining and powerful all at once.
Snapchat Dickpics – Yes, that’s the third play’s title (sorry for the dirty word). Two college men talk up their dating lives and attraction to (*ahem*) certain male areas on a certain phone app. Good dialogue and performances here, with both men coming to realize in the end that there’s still a need for real human relationships, not the virtual kind.
Case of the Gays – In baseball, the term “cleanup hitter” refers to the 4th hitter in the lineup who delivers a lot of power to drive home the base runners. That term applies perfectly to this, the 4th play in “Queer Shorts 2.0” and the last before intermission. It’s a monologue written and performed by Dan Myers in the guise of an actor e-mailing his “Queer Shorts” idea to Stage Q. But, oh, what an idea: Myers tells the audience how he learned from his parents (who learned from their parents) that homosexuals were unclean and should be treated with disdain. His attitudes would change when he became an adult, married a wonderful wife, got into acting… and began a platonic friendship with a gay male (no, he didn’t hit on Dan). Through that friendship, Myers learned that Mom and Dad were completely wrong about gays: They’re not deviant; they’re quite normal, in fact. And with that, Myers expresses regret for his cowardly behavior (his term) towards those he perceived were gay during his youth (maybe they were gay and he didn’t know about it). He even adds words of condolence for the survivors and victims in Orlando (certainly an add-on line after pre-Pulse performances of this play). Hands down, this was the highlight of the show.
The Devil Made Me Do It – The post-intermission plays, generally speaking, were more playful and not as strong as those in the first half. This play is one example, which features an incubus (complete with red wings that actually extend on command) sent from down under (and I’m not talking Australia) to do the horizontal nasty with some guy — who doesn’t make the demon’s job any easier by wanting to stay awake. An interesting (and passingly topical) twist at the end.
You Are Not Connected – Kaylee has kept her interest in girls in the closet. That security is disrupted when college classmate Sierra inadvertently posts her picture to a girl-on-girl website. Hilarity and character exploration ensues when they try to get her information deleted from the site despite a nasty internet connection. (Funny story: The internet problems were real in the Bartell Theatre lobby today; their computer system was out while Charter Communications put in a fix.)
Mystery in White – Definitely the emotional high point of “Queer Shorts'” second half, this short featured Sam inviting potential new love Jeff to the cabin that belonged to his late partner’s parents. The drama comes in Sam’s trying to move on and learn to love again, and in his hesitation to delete his partner’s Facebook account (even though they knew each others’ passwords).
Those Who Don’t Learn From the Past… Oh, Shit, What Was It Again? – Perhaps the bawdiest entry of “Queer Shorts 2.0” (and sorry again for the swear word in the actual title), this play centered on a guy who goes on Grindr and lands a big fish who… well, looks nowhere near his profile. (Both men were played by female actors, for the record.) The significance of the title is when the catch tells the guy about an app that allows him to forget bad memories. No real sense of character development or thoughts about the app in question.
Christmas Betrayal – The final skit (and what felt like the show’s clear “10 minutes until 1AM” afterthought) features a female couple, their “online Christmas letter,” and the determination (or lack thereof) that someone on their mailing list passed it on like a fruitcake but not before attaching to it an annoying song (yeah, this song) out of spite.
I noticed that unlike last year’s “Queer Shorts 10,” this year’s “Queer Shorts 2.0” felt much tighter. The skits were fewer and generally shorter, meaning the whole show went by fast (just about 2 hours). Even the interstitals between plays (featuring a silent hobo observing others on their smart phones) went by pretty quick. A technical drawback, at least to my ears: From “Mystery in White” through the end of the show, I kept hearing some light piano music playing on a loop either from right behind me or the audience section to my left. I must have been the only one noticing that music, because it didn’t seem as if the rest of the audience or the actors onstage noticed it. (Was it from the lobby? From the sound system? From someone’s phone? I wasn’t sure what.) If the actors were hearing that music, I gotta give it up to them, for they all appeared to be pure troopers when concentrating on their acting job at hand.
So, while “Queer Shorts 2.0” as a whole wasn’t perfect, it was still a pretty good time, and there was clearly a goodnatured feeling and a spirit of unyielding pride throughout the theater. Too bad the audience was a light one, although it was pretty good for a Saturday afternoon. Still, I’ll try to go for a weeknight performance at the next show I go to. Nothing against matinees, of course; it’s just that I’m of the belief that the larger the crowd, the more electric the show usually is.