Jerry Springer Theater

A comedy that fails to be funny is often artistically flawed, but a comedy that fails to be funny and insults Jews, Catholics, gays, and women without any sense of irony is morally repugnant. According to the press release for the Theatre-Studio's Playtime Series play I'm Not Gay!, the show originally premiered in Iceland, where a woman in the audience reportedly needed CPR after a choking fit of laughter. After seeing the opening-night performance of the English version, I can't help but speculate that the woman wasn't laughing at all and instead was aghast with shock and horror. After hearing such lines as "I killed my wife tonight...She's so fat...for four months I was [expletive] her belly button," one can imagine the woman wanting relief from the show's tactless vulgarity, if not an excuse to stop the play in mid-performance.

Granted, I'm Not Gay! is listed as a dark farce, "similar in style to South Park." But unlike South Park, which is a social satire disguised as a kids' cartoon, I'm Not Gay! has as its dominant feature the mere enjoyment of its own naughtiness.

Saying the show is collegiate would be an understatement. The fat jokes, the cursing, and the horrendously reified and unchallenged stereotypes are reminiscent of middle-schoolers gone wild. Who, one wonders, gave Daniel Guyton, the writer and director of I'm Not Gay!, the impression his Jerry Springer-inspired play was funny? Even the audience on opening night showed reserve, politely laughing at first but only tittering uncomfortably toward the end.

The show follows Gary, a homophobic Jewish businessman who turns out to be a cross-dressing, self-hating closet case. After confessing to a child-molesting Catholic priest, he murders his obese wife. Gary then makes a pass at Michael, a gay cop who has been left by his heroin-addict lover. Michael rejects him, and Gary subsequently shoots himself.

Dark comedies are difficult. A story isn't dark because it simply has curse words or political incorrectness, but because, like Todd Solondz's movies, it taps into unpleasant truths about human society in quirky ways. I'm Not Gay! only reveals the unpleasant and misguided artistry of its creators.

Despite a possibly able cast of actors, the heavily flawed writing and direction obscure any signs of talent. The pace of the actors, as well as the script, is unbearably slow. The story's unsurprising plot consistently lags behind the audience's expectations. The show's blocking and set changes are distracting and sloppy, to the point of collisions. And the perfunctory miming of opening doors, combined with the over-the-top dramatic delivery of lines, puts I'm Not Gay! into a category of its own

Click for print friendly PDF version of this blog post