“I was told that this play was going to be, “The must-see of Fringe Festival,” and upon seeing it on opening night, I have to agree.”
– Kelly Crawford
NoDef Staff Writer
The streets overfloweth with performance once again, as the New Orleans Fringe Festival is upon us. Once again NoDef’s crack team is taking to the streets to review all the plays, musicals, dance performances and one-man capers we can muster. The first batch of reviews are out of the oven. Check back for more as the fest rolls on.
At this years Fringe Festival, the musical production, Gayland, which is directed by Joseph Furnari, gives the audience a glimpse of a world run by homosexuals, and it’s not all rainbows as one would expect.
The six person cast of Gaylandspins stereotypes on their head by showing a world where it is the “ungays” that are persecuted and ostracized. The performance opens with a fantastically liturgical number (“In Eden Fair Our Mother God”), showing the studied talent of composer Scott R. King and the harmonious possibilities of the cast. This evangelical opening poignantly sets the stage as the characters call upon Mother God and Jessi Christ to rid the world of those who are not gay—because after all, being ungay is an act against God. It is a disease that can be caught from a toilet seat. It is an abomination that can make a person physically ill. In other words, it’s like Fox News on opposite day.
The sharp writing by Christopher St. John continues throughout Gayland, and it is equally met by the purposeful staging and costume changes in the performance. The play moves quickly from one number to the next as this six person cast creates scenes with their small props. Lori DeLeon, Lesley DeMartin, Ivan Griffin, David Kaplinsky, Brittany Scofield, and Nick Shackleford may only be six people, but they play around 30 characters, showing that a change in hair, costume, and attitude can be enough to transition the audience through a storyline. The setting is perfectly aligned with what one expects from the Fringe Festival—sparse with no frills.
Though the set may be thin, the voices that sing the 18 songs in this one-hour show are anything but. One of the vocal highlights was Ivan Griffin’s solo “I’m a Real Man.” The song’s bluesy sound and Griffin’s powerful voice about what a “real man” is received the loudest applause as well as some hoots and hollers from the audience. On the flip side was the sweetly charming duet, “Viva la Difference,” sung by strong-voiced Brittany Scofield and David Kaplinsky. And, just as the performance began with a harmonious piece, it ends with “You’ve Always Been Different,” which just can’t help but give you goosebumps as you hear the vocal range of the cast in its full capacity.
Although placed off to the side of the stage, the musical talents of Dilyara Shiderova (piano primo), April Mok (piano secondo), Doug Therrien (string bass), and Charles Kohlmeyer (percussion) echo throughout the Marigny Opera House and exhibit the various musical genres Gayland pulls from—everything from Broadway to styles with that devilish flatted fifth.
Together the cast, set-design, vocal direction, and purposefully bound writing of Gayland make this a performance that has the audience laughing at the ridiculous world created in the play and also waiting from them outside the doors of the Marigny Opera House. I was told that this play was going to be, “The must-see of Fringe Festival,” and upon seeing it on opening night, I have to agree.
Gayland is being performed at the Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand St.) on November 22 at 7 p.m., November 23 at 9 p.m., and November 24 at 11 p.m.