Gein Wong’s direction and Drake’s writing and performing appeal in show about queer and trans dating.
Written and performed by Sunny Drake, directed by Gein Wong. Until March 26 at Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander St. Buddiesinbadtimes and 416-975-8555
Before you enter Buddies in Bad Times’ Cabaret Space, an usher lovingly hands http://besthookupwebsites.org/tagged-review you a flower. But as soon as you’re through the door, another usher confiscates it and hands you a button that says, �1 Min Romance Sober.�
It’s easy to fall for Sunny Drake’s No Strings (Attached): review
This is the setup to Sunny Drake’s one-man show about dating and intimacy in queer and trans communities. The piece takes place in the fictional frame of a �Romance-aholics� meeting, with Drake playing Jimmy, a filmmaker and activist torn between his progressive politics and his addiction to old-fashioned love stories. He addresses the audience as fellow Romance-aholics, telling us stories of his past relationships and interacting with video versions of himself.
The concept initially comes off as a bit cutesy, but this is quickly cut through by the intelligence of the writing and of Gein Wong’s direction, and by the no-holds-barred adult nature of the content. Within minutes, Drake as Jimmy is miming highly gymnastic sexual positions while introducing himself to the audience as an �Effeminate-Queer-Pansy-NonMonogamous-SparklyPrincess-SomewhatSluttyKinky-Transsexual-Man.�
Throughout the show Jimmy narrates his struggle to navigate the Wild West of today’s dating scene. Some of the challenges he faces are specific to his identity as trans: he describes what he calls �the Craigslist meltdown,� when someone he meets online can’t handle the disconnect between his male gender presentation and his genitalia, which are still ostensibly female (though Jimmy, as he explains, experiences them as male). But there is also something for anyone who has attempted to navigate hookup culture while remaining interested in �the type of dating where you, like, talk and stuff.�
Drake is a very appealing performer: he clearly has excellent physical theatre training and an impressive capacity to be emotionally present while delivering layered storytelling, in which he constantly moves between characters and situations. This is facilitated by economical set design by Joe Pagnan: a chair, a few white draperies, and a dummy on which the impressive videos (by Wong, Laura Warren, Alex Williams and Hisayo Horie) are projected.
Jimmy, it emerges, is still pretty hung up on his ex Brian, but this causes him no end of angst because his politics tell him that his desire for a monogamous relationship is wrong on any number of levels: it’s a cave-in to heterosexual values and part of a capitalist culture of possession.
While the jokes and the clever multimedia devices (live excerpts from an imagined reality TV show involving an audience volunteer; a funny-scary video sequence called the �Monogamy Police�) fly thick and fast, Drake lands topical points about the challenges of living ethically in a world in which one person’s liberation can easily contribute to another’s oppression.
The show’s final twist involves Jimmy coming to terms with the source of his lifelong insecurity and narcissism, a revelation that makes sense of the use of paint-stained bed sheets as key props throughout. A puppet makes a late and memorable entrance, revealing yet another of Drake’s theatrical skills. While this sequence comes across as deeply felt and truthful to Jimmy’s (and presumably, Drake’s) experience, it leaves the show a distance from its initial premise and verges on the indulgently therapeutic.
This show, produced by Pink Pluto and Eventual Ashes, toured to multiple countries before landing at Buddies, where Australian-born Drake is now director of the emerging creators’ unit. Along with Gertrude and Alice in the Buddies’ mainspace it offers another valuable perspective on the experiences of queer communities – with quite a few laughs and insights along the way.