Mardi Gras theatre offerings often have quite sensational names to draw attention to themselves – and this is certainly no exception. But don’t be put off by the brashness of Joe Dipietro’s title. This is a beautifully written piece with some wonderful insights into not only gay life but the nature of relationships more generally.
It has previously been performed in both the UK and USA with return engagements testifying to the appealing nature of the writing and performance. It is loosely adapted from Schnitzler’s 19th century satire ‘La Ronde’ and has been morphed into a very cleverly linked series of dialogues exploring the way casual sex connects a group of otherwise unrelated men, and the ramifications to each of their lives.
Thank heaven, this is no tortured morality tale, but neither is it a banal celebration. The delight of the writing is how it reveals the duality of sexual experience, the need, the desire, the occasional regret and also a great deal of positive affirmation. “Why does any guy have sex with strangers? Cause it feels fan-fuckin’-tastic. That’s it. End of story.” Each character is sharply drawn, and has light and shade aplenty. They are flawed, interesting people – sometimes shining bright with mischief and humour, and at other times navigating their way with grace through their own personal demons. The writing somehow manages to avoid the stereotype, no mean feat as each scene is labelled with that stereotype on a placard beforehand.
Mark G Nagle’s production for the New Theatre introduces new elements to the piece in the form a musical score that transforms the piece from a punchy one act powerhouse into a somewhat more sprawling two act evening. I was not convinced of the wisdom of this choice. The scripting is so clever, so tight, and the way the characters link from one scene to another drives the show at what should be a cracking pace, weaving together similar experiences and universal truths. Breaking up this very spare and revealing dialogue with often quite slow melancholy tunes, diminished rather than revealed the character journeys for me. This was combined with a series of endless bedlinen changes on a set that seemed awkward to move for what resulted in very little actual scenic variation. While each vignette was well crafted and performed, I thought the design and score ultimately did not assist the pacing between scenes. I found it distracting and unnecessary.
It is a solidly skilled company of very attractive gentlemen that perform these tales. They are well cast and seem to be enjoying this great script. John Michael Burdon really shone as Jack and I found his performance confident, touching and truthful. As was Jackson Blair West as Sammy – who revealed a delightfully dry comic timing, and who I suspect was the character that the author could really speak through the most. But even though these performances were highlights for me, each performer has their chance to shine and make the most of their moment in the sun. And I’m equally sure different audience members will find resonance in different characters with whom they relate most closely. A few mandatory naked bums are also ‘de-rigeur’ for a Mardi Gras play and they appear with regularity.
The New Theatre are a fantastic local theatre company, primarily run by volunteers and regularly putting on works that often never see the light of day elsewhere. They are to be applauded with their ongoing commitment to the Sydney fringe scene and deserve our support.
Visit their website to volunteer or donate (www.newtheatre.org.au). Most of all – go see their plays. Fucking Men remains a really wonderful script, and it is a convincingly performed, rewarding night out.
New Theatre presents
by Joe Dipietro
Director Mark G. Nagle
Venue: New Theatre | 542 King Street Newtown, NSW
Dates: 6 February – 10 March 2018
Tickets: $35 – $30
Part of the 2018 Mardi Gras Festival
Note: this production contains nudity, strong language and sexual references. Suitable for 18+