Review written by Katie Marsh with help from Jessica Wells and Josh Alcock. BASH’d! A Gay Rap Opera runs from January 14 to the 31, 2010 (Tuesday to Sunday). Tickets are $33 to $42.
Star-crossed lovers, a deft mix of tragedy and comedy, and of course, the kind of slick rhymes that haven’t been seen on stage since the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff left hip-hop for super stardom and a goat farm on mars respectively. Bash’d: A Gay Rap Opera mixes the best of these Shakespearean conventions into a decidedly modern take on love, family and homophobia.
The tale follows two young men from their first kiss through to the more difficult times that follow. Dillon, “the fruit that fell far from the family tree”, leaves a homophobic small town to find true love with Jack, the adopted son of two gay parents. The contrasting experiences of the two serve as the basis of their attraction: Dillon grew up sitting in the family chapel thinking “Jesus looks hot in those robes,” while Jack got tips on cruising the gay bars from his parents.
Perhaps the play’s strongest feature is the skill with which it was put together and performed. While the only people on stage – performer/playwright Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow – play multiple characters simultaneously, their clever use of lighting, acting, choreography and changing music beats ensures that the audience never lose their way. For instance, at one point both actors play Dillon’s mother in the same scene, without it being at all confusing for the audience.
The rapping, which draws on the old-school style exemplified by Grand Master Flash and other early masters of the genre, is very cleaver and easy to follow. For me and my crew, the highlight of the show was a roll call of the denizens of your neighborhood gay bar. The scene drew on characters of fag hags, bears, lesbians and others to hilarious effect, using the stereotypes for comedy without letting them take over the show.
Craddock and Cuckow also did an excellent job at addressing and integrating a wide assortment of difficult political and social questions – including masculinity, homophobia, gay marriage, revenge and violence – seamlessly into the play’s action. Nevertheless, perhaps the play’s only false note sounds at the end, which dealt with a tragic turn of events. My friends and I where left unsure as to whether the ending was a warning about the ultimate consequences of homophobia, or just a device to lead the plot to a satisfactory conclusion.
Overall, BASH’d is a very clever play that never drops a beat over its 55 minute run. Definitely worth the price of admission, dawgs.