Gay For Pay with Blake & Clay
Written by Curtis te Brinke and Daniel Krolik, directed by te Brinke. Tarragon Theater Extraspace, 30 Bridgeman Ave. Runs through July 16. Tickets at fringetoronto.com
The hilariously cutting premise of this satirical Fringe show is that two middle-aged gay actors, Blake (co-writer Daniel Krolik) and Clay (Jonathan Wilson) are giving a seminar for straight actors about how to play gay — because that’s the ticket to great reviews and heaps of awards.
“Consider the Oscar wins alone for these straight men who bravely limped their wrists on screen,” offers Blake, listing Mahershala Ali in “Green Book,” Sean Penn in “Milk,” and Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia,” among others.
“Those gold statues were justly earned. Because it’s not just a matter of throwing on a feather boa and some lesions,” the two continue. “It takes skill, craft, determination. And looking good in a knee-length silk kimono.”
I could go on quoting every line in this hour-long play, because so many of them are perfectly calibrated mic drops.
The eight-part “seminar,” complete with PowerPoint slides, covers topics including LGBTQ+ terminology (how to tell a bear from an otter from a twink) and how to play standard gay moments including “hairdresserly admonishments,” “wistfully talking about your dead aunt,” and “oversharing with your drama students.” Deftly, the show calls out stereotypes and hypocrisies in the entertainment industry while delivering great satirical entertainment.
Co-writer Curtis te Brinke’s expert direction and the actors’ performances keep things moving briskly along, engaging with audience laughter and groans without dropping the pace. Wilson’s tightly-wound demeanour and dead-on timing are especially remarkable.
Just when you think that the tone might not be sustainable, one of the characters’ artifact briefly crumbles to reveal anger and disappointment about the hypocrisies and barriers that keep him from playing his own experience. And just as quickly — and with a smart final twist on a trope set up along the way — things get wrapped up, and the audience is left to savor the show’s many great laugh lines and the sharp points it makes about representation and responsibility.
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