The Playgoer: Drama's Historical Closet

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Drama's Historical Closet

In case anyone thinks "gay plays" are anything new, here's an interesting repertory series in San Francisco unearthing the rich history of "out" drama.

"100 Years of Queer Theatre," a rotating repertory of eight short plays at Theatre Rhinoceros that poses some fascinating then-and-now questions about how gay life is seen in a culture that keeps rotating the lens to sharpen the view, blur it or blot it out altogether. This year's festival [is] the seventh annual foray of short works by the Eastenders Repertory Company...

Setting herself the century-of-gay-theater challenge, Eastenders Rep Artistic Director Susan Evans says she had a hard time finding pre-1940s short plays that were overtly "out." One of her early-years finds is "The Dangerous Precaution," a 1907 mini-musical by the Russian writer Mikhail Kuzmin.

Staged with a fittingly light, fractured fairy-tale touch by [Theatre Rhinoceros Artistic Director John Fisher], this historical oddity turns on the amorous maneuverings in a 17th century court. The king's son (Gene Moscy) is passing himself off as a woman disguised as a man - or something like that. One song lyric celebrates a "lissome waist and trim rump"; another winkingly puns on "top or bottom." It all ends with a jolly male-to-male kiss. Fisher speculates that the Russian czar, who was reeling from a bad war effort, let his censorship guard down in order to demonstrate his confidently expansive nature. "It's like Bush being so nervous about losing power," says Fisher, "that he'd start letting boys get married."

Um, of course that last part did not happen, did it.

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