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Fringe Finale

Reviews: My Horse's Name is Loneliness, Roller Rink Temptations



The plus of having your planned slate of Fringe Fest shows fall apart is that you start just wandering around to whatever’s still available and sounds interesting. That’s when synchronistic patterns emerge. Two of the four shows I saw Saturday night – My Horse’s Name is Loneliness, Aztec Economy’s sequel to its Fringe hit, My Aim is True, and newbie troupe Beaubourg’s production of Catherine Weingarten’s A Roller Rink Temptation – both seem to me to be modern, niche variations of the old-school gay sensibility’s main contribution to culture: Camp.

 

Defined, too briefly, as a social and aesthetic sensibility that relies on deliberate artifice to imply what otherwise can’t be said, camp has taken a beating in the cultural market. Like so many of the fruits of pre-Stonewall gay culture, what was once transgressive has turned trivial, rarely more than a fashion choice or a manner of speech. Domesticated in general since the whole culture became ‘insider’ – even your great-grandma greets Miley’s antics with a knowing smile. Camp has been squeezed on one side by the modern mainstream gay community’s preference for assimilation over separatism and on the other by the earnest identity politics of the transgender movement. The highest-profile camp is now, at best, RuPaul’s Drag Race (pious and hysteria-ridden), or American Horror Story: Coven (nonsensical).

 

But the knowing theatricality of camp, the possibility it presents to offend on the sly, still appeals. Specialty variations of it are still possible. Neither of these shows were completely successful, and only one of them was even much fun, but I think both Loneliness and Temptation are, perhaps unintentionally, campy as hell. “Geek camp” and “dyke camp,” respectively.

And I’m sure that both will be back… 

 

My Horse’s Name is Loneliness

(Spoilers Follow)

Setting aside the long cowboy-poetry speeches that are its raison d'être, the plot of My Horse’s Name is Loneliness basically works as follows. The Stranger, an Eastwoodian symbol of pure taciturn masculinity, newly arrived with his horse in an isolated mountain town, is obliged to kill an endlessly wordy mountebank, either because he won’t shut up or, more likely, because he won’t stop making passes at him. The weary, rather emasculated local sheriff is in turn obliged to arrest The Stranger, holding him in the local jail for a long night of more monologues as various townspeople come and go. Most prominent of them is Bob, a moonshiner who runs things and wants The Stranger dead, for no reason I’m certain of except to eliminate a rival alpha male. Bob’s sidekick is a sexual little snake who licks long knives and stares lasciviously at everybody, especially The Stranger. He even makes a pass at Opal, the widowed sheriff’s spunky young daughter. The Stranger offers to sacrifice himself for the sake of the town, but the sheriff and his effeminate, limping deputy will have none of it. Eventually, once everyone’s had their say, the showdown arrives. In an explosion of well-choreographed slo-mo shoot-outs, played out before a rapid-fire big-screen projection of violent scenes from pop culture, especially videogames, the villains are dispatched. The deputy shoots the nasty little snake in the back. The Stranger himself takes out Bob, once the mysterious Woman with Ruby Lips, who otherwise has nothing to do, reappears just long enough to light the fuse of The Stranger’s dynamite. Bob is killed, and The Stranger and Loneliness disappear, presumably to be available for the next installment. The Sheriff and the Deputy, their heterosexuality confirmed by their defense of The Stranger and the death of all the faggots, are free to pose in a dad-and-mom family portrait with Opal as the lights go down.

 

Since playwright Matthew Hancock and the principals of Aztec Economy are New York millennials with a young following, I assume this playing with “Celluloid Closet” tropes is meant all in ironic fun. Even if not, I’m about a decade past being offended by culturemakers who offer up good straight guys killing evil gay guys to affirm their “as long as I don’t suck cock I’m straight, however it appears” bona fides. It’s been going on forever, and better in Art than in Life. Presented from the perspective of the gamer generation (where the politics of masculinity are extremely fraught) The Stranger trilogy does offer the potential for something new: Geek camp.

 

However, for that to work, either the speeches will have to get a lot shorter or the acting a lot more stylish. Or both. Only the very funny Jody Reho as the Deputy, Timothy McDonough as Bob’s sidekick, and, in tonally limited roles, Adam Belvo as The Stranger and Noelle Wilcox as the Woman with Ruby Lips, rise to the campy requirements. Everybody else (i.e. the major players) find a single vocal approach and declaims the night away.

 

A Roller Rink Temptation

Catherine Weingarten’s A Roller Rink Temptation is camp that has been seen before, albeit not recently, of a much more ebullient sort. A coming-out-lesbian spin on the Mean Girls-style of comedy, it’s a manic celebration of blossoming female desire, wherein three analogous couples (each pairs off one amorous, frustrated suitor with one resistant virgin) meet and court in a disco roller rink that seems to have a clientele comprised exclusively of baby-dykes. The pairs include the adult owner of the rink, maybe intended to be a diesel dyke, with a Jewish nerd who seems to be Weingarten’s stand-in; a Heathers-esque cheerleader, with a tiny brainiac who lives to make art out of frogs; and two more girls who…well, I couldn’t tell what their deal was.

 

It hardly matters. The cross-cutting dialogue is as apropos-of-nothing as in Loneliness and most Fringe theatre, but much funnier. Weingarten offers almost no plot, but director Maile Zox moves it all speedily enough that story isn’t much missed. A male emcee (Steven Markow) sets up scenes and the occasional change-of-pace non sequitur, like a beauty pageant sequence to satisfy the dreams of the cheerleader. There are several endearingly amateurish song-and-dance routines.

 

Annie Gaia, who plays the cheerleader, also choreographs. Her stylish look-at-me performance, along with those of the fake-suave Markow, Zox as the motormouth Jewish nerd, and Clara Fernandez as the wide-eyed frog lover, which are mostly responsible for elevating the show above sitcom into camp. (Everybody else is just fine, I hasten to add.) Each offer the hard-to-describe ultra-sincerity that is one hallmark of the style: “Kidding?! Who, moi?” Especially in the writing of the rink owner and cheerleader, Weingarten subverts expectations. The owner, who normally would be worldly and domineering, is all but a needy virgin herself; the cheerleader is the obsessed hunter, not the unobtainable hunted.

 

Weingarten could afford  to introduce a few more bumps in the road to true love other than virgin inexperience. Likewise, she has probably done her play no favors by failing to bring all three couples to a happy ending. It’s almost a betrayal of the audience to swerve into poignant loss in the last five minutes. And she really does need to give the third couple some thought.

 

The production values are ramshackle, even by Fringe standards. Although I’ve seen plenty of shows in my time where sloppiness and ebullience were inextricably entwined, I think A Roller Rink Temptation could withstand a bit more polish without taking a blow to its joyous heart.

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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