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“I think that Gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman.”
– Arnold Schwarzenegger, whilst campaigning for governor of California,
The Sean Hannity Show, (26 August 2003)
Hard as it may be to believe, the pre-show curtain speech for Killing My Lobster’s latest collection informs us that this is the company’s first-ever Pride-themed show. It’s by no means the show’s first time featuring LGBTQ+ content – Allison Page’s infamous Lesbian wedding reception sketch remains a classic – but it’s surprising that they haven’t done a full lineup until now. Hell, a San Francisco theatre company whose initials are “KML” (ie. the three MUNI lines that lead into The Castro) is practically required to have the most queertastic show ever. But what the hell do I know? I just watch sketch comedy, I don’t make it.
And Queering My Lobster is a damn-fine way to kill an hour. I haven’t seen as many KML shows as I’d wanted lately (I missed the X-mas show and Honey, I Shrunk the Whites, but I caught their youth-writer showcase) and it was a delight see the company on their A-game. The fact that the cast is composed of primarily openly-LGBTQ+ actors is an added bonus.
With a pre-show playlist featuring Queen, Donna Summer, and Cher to opening and closing dance numbers hommaging The Weather Girls (“It’s Raining Queers”) and Lady Gaga, respectively (“So-So-So-So Gay”), the show takes irreverent looks at Queer identity from the inside looking out. The opening piece consists of a closeted questioning high school senior (Jan Gilbert) being visited by her openly-Gay future-self (Melanie Marshall) who pleads the younger-self to come out of the closet sooner. “You need to get it together before college,” the elder insists, “because we missed a looooooot of opportunities.”
Through 22 rapid-fire sketches, the material runs the gamut from drunken Gay penguins and TED Talks from self-congratulatory “straight” allies to wandering knights crossing swords (wink-wink) and tech bros trying to subvert their company’s diversity strides. They’re all incredibly silly, but there’s a sincerity that shines through with each one. As a former ‘90s teen myself, I couldn’t help but feel for the girl at the slumber party (Amanda Ramos) trying to hide her crush for Dr. Quinn. In fact, no matter where you fall on the Kinsey Scale, I think we’ve all had the Herman’s Head/Pixar’s Inside Out-style anxiety shown in the mind of a Grindr-user.
Even a PSA warning the Gay community of the coming onslaught of “Str8 Bachelorette Parties” mines its comedy from honesty rather than punching upward. For every flat-out silly piece like “The Twove” (a Vogue-like butt-dance that I’m sure I’m misspelling) there are at least 2 or 3 about classic Caribbean pirates having more freedom than contemporary Gays (and women). If you don’t believe me, wait for Nick Hongola’s show-stopping solo song number “Gay 4 Pay” (La Cage aux Folles) lamenting the fact that only cis-straight actors get recognition and awards for playing LGBTQ+ characters.
And through it all, the cast swings for the fences. Company regulars Jan Gilbert and Melanie Marshall provide the razor-sharp comedic timing we’ve come to expect from them, yet their sketch as the aforementioned wandering knights takes them into hilarious new areas even longtime followers will be surprised by (and watch for Marshall’s lumberjack piece). I’m not all that familiar with Shane Swenson, but his self-righteous TED Talk sketch was an hilarious reminder of why I stopped watching those goddamn videos. Amanda Ramos and Nick Hongola are equally memorable in their respective turns as the Dr. Quinn-loving slumber partier and “Gay 4 Pay” singer.
With a strong ensemble on hand, I’m hesitant to single out any one performer, but I do hope the Bay Area theatre community appreciates the talent of Charlie Gray. In the past few years, I’ve seen Gray as everything from a brooding Shakespearean heir and Moby Dick-reading prince to the lamenting spouse of a live rabbit. This show sees Gray bouncing back-and-forth as a closeted star of Hollywood’s “Golden Era,” SuperGay (a hero dedicated to explaining workplace diversity), and the annoyed bartender in a silent sketch featuring to overly-amorous patrons. Yet, my favorite moment might be the night’s penultimate, wherein Gray and Swenson play the Gay dads of a curious toddler (Ramos). The smug look of self-satisfaction on Gray’s face watching the other dad struggle with an explanation gave the audience one of the biggest laughs in a night chock-full of them.
Lest I end this review without acknowledging the talent off-stage, I certainly have to compliment the work of director Michael Phillis and his crew. The writing for this round was led by Sean Owens. In typical KML style, none of the individual sketches are credited, but it’s good work all around. And the choreography by Rory Davis makes me jealous that I’ve never directed anything set to an instrumental of Britney’s “Toxic”.
All said, a strong show for the veteran SF sketch troupe. As a comedy showcase, it’s a much more affordable option than throwing your money away at Clusterfest. In fact, it just further proves that SF has an overabundance of talent all its own.
Also, I think “scissoring” might be a metaphor for something…
Queering My Lobster is scheduled to run until the 9th of June at PianoFight in San Francisco.
The show runs roughly 1 hour with no intermission.
For tickets and information, please visit the production’s official site here.
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