First of all, Topher Payne please be my best friend for being so ballsy in the best contemporary and culturally relevant work I have seen on stage in a very long time. We will touch on your balls again later. Second of all, Johnny Drago please be my best friend for portraying such a complicated, comedic, crazy town character. Okay, now on to the review.
7 Stages premiered Topher Payne’s “comedy with a body count,” Angry Fags. There are plenty of shows going on in the theaters across the city, but I promise you this is the only one that will cause you to look at the world we live in, our political and cultural climate and question, think and laugh simultaneously. Combine the writing with the direction by Justin Anderson and the scene design by Nadia Morgan, and of course the committed cast, Angry Fags did something edgy, modern and brave in the span of mere hours and in a local Little Five theater.
The play, running till March 17, follows two characters, Cooper (Johnny Drago) and Bennett (Jacob York), two gay best friends trying to maneuver through love, career and moments of hatred fueled by ignorance. The political plot line is pulled in by Bennett who works as an aid to Allison Haines (Melissa Carter), a lesbian running for office, and although they seem to be wanting to do it better, more honestly and aware of the world, the same tricks, tools and wayward morals govern important choices. Throughout the play a question is faced by many of the characters involved, what will you forfeit to win and is it worth it?
The biggest of the decisions comes from both Bennett and Cooper. After a hate crime has threatened the life of a friend and former lover of Bennett’s, they turn into domestic terrorists. They fight the hypocrisy, lies and inequality and convince themselves they are doing good, until it is beyond obvious that their fight has gotten out of control and their motives come from the same ugly place that the ignorance does from those that they are fighting.
This aspect drives a lot of the humor, the power of human emotion, and the frequently asked question. But this is revealed in the first scene. It was essentially an prologue. Which in literature and in playwriting I believe, for the most part, is a mistake. The tension would have been greater throughout the play, the choices that these characters were making would have seemed much more suspenseful and it probably would have helped with the fact that these two men seemed to easily slip from law abiding citizens to vigilantes. There is humor, yes, but there is also huge, impactful and true commentary going on throughout the play about our current state in the world. And I think that this might have been lost at certain moments due to the lack of depth caused by the knowledge of what was going to happen.
Payne has written a play that I hope will run in theaters across this country, venture onto Broadway and most likely be turned into a film. It walks this fine line of social dissection and criticism that never makes the audience – no matter their tastes in life – feel uncomfortable or judged. It simply makes you take a look outward and inward, and see the that we are all just trying to survive and that we should be more accepting and less rejecting of how each other choose to do this.
Angry Fags is running till March 17 at 7 Stages, for ticket information and show times, visit, www.7stages.org.
*Previously published on Buskingattheseams.wordpress.com, March 2013.