The All American Genderf*ck Cabaret
Choreographed by Brandon Scott Whited
The Cast of the All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret.
BOTTOM LINE: The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret explores the archetypes and challenges of gender in this country through vignettes of the trials and triumphs of nine various characters along the feminine/masculine spectrum.
Originally produced a year ago, Mariah MacCarthy’s The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret is being revived by the new GLBT playwright-driven theatre company Purple Rep. It runs in conjunction with the premier of Larry Kunofsky’s The Un-Marrying Project for the company’s Gay Plays for Straight People (and also gay people). These two playwrights are also the founders of Purple Rep.
The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret explores nine characters: four male, four female, and one androgynous, all of whom comprise a complete representation of the gender spectrum. These nine characters, who are all loosely related and sometimes dating, interact with one another and with their own gender-based foibles in a series of exhibit-style episodes. The audience is guided through this investigation by the “androgynous, omnipotent M.C.”
Opening the show as this M.C. character, Kim Gainer bursts onto the stage with charisma and energy. She not only warms the audience, but also invites them into the world of the play and prepares everyone seated before the stage to examine what they are seeing. She also introducing all of the characters, sharing specific facts about each of their lives and personalities in one of the most interesting moments of Genderf*ck Cabaret. The author draws dynamically complex sketches of each character’s bio with the simplest of contradictory but recognizable human facts. Things like letting us know that the “loose woman” role has read Crime and Punishment 12 times, or that the machismo guy dislikes his stepsister but lives for her son. These things help to make the stereotype-based characters more real from the onset.
Genderf*ck Cabaret calls for the study of nine stereotypical gender types that we all know, but it succeeds on the personalities behind those stereotypes. Each of these characters is made human for the audience through a series of hopes, mistakes, and revelations so that the viewer may perceive that we’re all people, regardless of type or label.
In a reflection of the themes of Genderf*ck Cabaret, the set is tilted at an angle, covered with string lights. The backdrop is made from fabrics of various texture and color overlapping in a lively, diverse collage. If this set were a bar on 4th Street, I’d be there all the time.
To add to the design fun, the costumes seem to be inspired by Michael Jackson, Otto Titsling, and Marisa Tomei. And this ambitious group even made use of a makeshift fly system, pullying over the grid to fly in a slab of wood used as a table in various scenes and even a magical flown-in cocktail. Divine.
Biggest props go to the prop designer Julie A. Feltman, though, for taking advantage of the metatheatrical, representational world of the show with delightful versions of drinks, sandwiches, and an array of stylized hand props. Outstanding!
Beyond Kim Gainer, this zealous, diverting cast is led by standouts Lauren Hennessy and Catherine LeFrere. As Devon, Lauren Hennessy infects the audience with her easy charm. She’s the kind of loveable comic actress who is destined to carry a sitcom. Whereas Catherine LeFrere takes on a version of the heart-of-gold hooker in her character, Gwen, and breaks the audience’s heart. Sassy and funny, as the lonely good-time girl always is, LeFrere breaks out in touching, intimate scenes in which her character’s inner life is casually revealed. LeFrere also proves herself the kind of actress who can turn a mundane line into a scene-stopper. Every actor in this piece takes on a great moment, every actor makes the audience laugh again and again. It’s a talented and enthusiastic cast.
The crowd for Genderf*ck Cabaret (at the least the night I saw it) is very young and very downtown. Eclectic artist types with say-something hair who hang out in Bushwick lofts pretending its Williamsburg aren’t an easy crowd to please, but these twenty-something trenders loved the show. Rarely have I been in a crowd having so much fun at a performance. To use a phrase, they ate it up.
The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret is a show with a naughty title but a good heart and a great message. Purple Rep and Mariah MacCarthy want to change the world with their work, and Genderf*ck Cabaret is on that path with its collection of humanized stereotypes and its assertion that we all deserve more than we allow ourselves. The audience enjoys the good times and hardships of the gender spectrum, then with a kiss and a dance break, the show ties its loose ends into a happy bow.
(The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret runs at the Paradise Factory, 64 E. 4th Street between Bowery and 2nd Avenue, through April 30, 2011. Remaining performances are Thursday, April 28th and Saturday, April 30th at 8PM. Tickets are $18 and may be purchased at brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1.800.838.3006.)