Sleeping With Straight Men…..The Stag, Victoria

Sleeping with Straight Men – a dark comedy inspired by true events.

Tonight’s play had odd flashes and moments but it put me in mind of Gwendolyn Fairfax’s words over tea in ‘The Importance of being Earnest’
On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one’s mind: it becomes a pleasure.

Judging by the ratings I’m alone in thinking that the daytime TV talk show is television’s version of the nauseating tabloid. Whilst striking a high moral pose and presenting itself as suitably shocked, its suggestive, salacious, knowing, and risqué. Like striptease it coyly shows us less than it promises to reveal; like a large box of southern-fried chicken, it promises a party but delivers indigestion.

This low brow entertainment Talk Show format – exemplified by Jerry Springer but since taken down market – unites exhibitionist narcissists with their voyeuristic audience. It masquerades as the best friend who listens and advises – a counselling service devoted to its audience of ordinary people. In fact it exploits both the attention-seeking stars and the prurient spectators giving them another fix to feed their respective social addictions. Therefore it’s a perfect subject for drama.

The play is inspired by true story of one of these shows bringing together a straight guy with an unknown admirer who turned out to be a gay guy. The straight man was homophobic. He subsequently shot dead the gay guy. Finding a concise number of words to convey the improbability of this only emphasises the rich seam of its dramatic possibility.

The cast managed to draw some interesting performances from the material they were given by Ronnie Larsen. Both the women…Julie Ross who plays the gay guy’s Mom and Jill Regan who plays the straight guy’s wife Karen brought some touching moments to their characters. But they needed a bit more to work with. The gay guy was given a lot more dialogue to work with but it lacks any sense of an interior human being. But maybe Stanley (Wesley Dow) isn’t anything more than an immature, attention-seeking queen whose vain pursuit of fame puts him on the wrong end of a straight barrel. The gun was wielded by Adam Isdale’s Lee. I don’t think it was Isdale’s fault that Lee’s trigger happy finale comes as a bolt from the blue. Personally I also found it hard to believe that five beers and a scotch and coke would have got the straight guy drunk enough to adventure sex with Stanley in his mom’s trailer. But Hell I don’t watch this stuff so what would I know?

This being the Stag and a gay play I suppose there had to be a drag queen. This one is called Sally(Martin Milnes). Milnes has a big voice…falsetto…and it certainly filled the small theatre…a bit like Ethel Mermen’s voice once filled Broadway…or maybe not…

Anyway, Sally – who like her namesake in Cabaret uses hers songs to provide a commentary on the plot – has a number of songs to get through… perhaps more than the play can justifiably carry…they rather reminded of that dead tradition of late nineteenth century operatic divas who mid performance would seize upon applause to give their devoted fans one to two of their favourite arias from other operas…and tonight I’m afraid Sally’s rendition of New York New York for me almost took the heart out of the big apple.

I still enjoyed myself. I would still go back to another play there. There’s a lot of talent in ATS and because I don’t think something is that good doesn’t mean I’m right….but….

Without wishing to spoil the end for anyone…when I was at school a play that ended with the hero being shot was called a tragedy. And Ronnie Larsen calling this a play dark comedy doesn’t change my mind…. and although this reviewer aspires to being a writer and must therefore wield his pen with caution….when all is said and done…tonight’s play was indeed a tragedy…just not necessarily for the right reasons…..

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