It was so hot at the Bus Stop last night that I propose that next year be a clothing-optional Queer Acts Festival and that rainbow coloured Japanese fans be sold in the lobby. However, the heat didn’t stop crowds of enthusiastic theatre-goers from enjoying three great performances.
Logan and I
Michael McPhee’s 80’s-set coming-of-age story beautifully captures both the feel of the era and the angst of childhood. Dezzy is an outcast in his new school—-“prey for predators” —-until Logan (a boy who ignores the “Geneva Convention” of the schoolyard) becomes his best friend. While their friendship begins with a shared love of Transformers, it quickly (Too quickly? The boys are only nine at the time...) becomes a sexual one that Logan describes as practicing for girls. Actor Glen Matthews brings the perfect amount of a vulnerability to the damaged Logan, so that he’s painted in shades of grey rather than being seen only as a villain. McPhee is a marvel as the love-sick Dezzy. His face is an open-book, where heartbreak and humour are equally readable.
Berend McKenzie also has the ability to elicit laughter and tears. His one-man show about growing up black and gay begins with a vignette about an ill-conceived makeover meant to win the admiration of the coolest girl in high school. We know it won’t end well, but there are lots of laughs as we watch him primp and preen en route to crushing embarrassment. The opening and closing vignettes are the strongest in this show, mainly because McKenzie does such a fine job of revisiting his young self. His portrayal of a sensitive child who suffers at the hand of a bully makes you want to reach out and hug him, and his triumph over the bully will make you want to cheer. Nggrfg is a touching, entertaining and inspiring piece of theatre.
The (sad) Ballad of Oliver Hugh & Company
The last piece of the night is the hardest one to describe. Local performer/drag-king Steph McNair teams up with theatre artist Steven Bourque in another tale of unrequited love, this time told through music and burlesque. What happens when a boy who likes boys fall for a girl who likes girls and dresses like a boy? The answer seem to be that they dance and lip-sync themselves through various outward transformations until they can meet somewhere in the middle. Bourque is charming with his puppy-dog demeanor and McNair commands the eye with an androgynous appearance and polished moves. This (sad) ballad is intriguing and original and a great way to cap the evening.
Queer Acts runs nightly from July 20-23 at the Bus Stop Theatre: Logan and I at 7pm; Berend McKenzie’s nggrfg, 8:30pm; The (sad) Ballad of Oliver Hugh & Company, written and performed by Steve Bourque and Steph McNair, 10pm. All tickets are $15/$10 for students, seniors and underwaged. Festival passes are available for $30 at Venus Envy; advance tickets can be reserved at qareservations@gmail