Theatre review: The Pitch and Mother May I – Vancouver’s queer theatre scene just got a whole lot more interesting

Vancouver’s queer theatre scene just got a whole lot more interesting as Jordan Patterson and Randie Parliament present two very different world premieres.

Mother May I and The PitchIn Patterson’s The Pitch the playwright himself pitches a Hunter S. Thompson-esque television pilot of his life for Oprah’s wildest dream contest.  Along the way Patterson takes a Brechtian look at everything from our obsession with looks (“are we too fat to party at gay ski week anymore?”) to the pervasiveness of drugs in gay culture.

As Patterson, Kevin Flately had a penchant for whining but is effective overall as the glue that binds the deliberately fragmented and drug induced stories.  And while Louis Dupuis is a powerhouse as drug dealer Marshal it is Nathan Witte as Patterson’s boyfriend that brings the most layers to this man-boy who says he wants more from life but can’t for the life of him figure out what that means.  As the chorus Katie Doyle, Michaela Mann and Kirsten Gauthier are simply hilarious as the restaurant workers who are out to teach their manager a dire lesson for his homophobia and Doug Millar gives a very funny turn as a self-obsessed Margaret Cho.

Patterson takes great risks here and while the circuit party and drug scene are not something I can relate to myself, it was obvious from the reaction of the opening night audience it hit a chord.  At times quite clever, this psychedilic romp’s cautionary tale is as biting as it is funny.  A word of warning though, in an effort to immerse his audience into the middle of a circuit party, Patterson begins the show with deafening electronica music that had some of us wishing we had brought our earplugs.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, Parliament’s Mother May I was enough to bring me to tears.

Returning to his small hometown in the prairies following the death of his mother Peter remembers a childhood filled with racism, homophobia and even greater evils.  As he and his boyfriend begin to pack up the household, the ghosts of his past wander in and out of his memories.

An obviously personal story, Parliament has assembled a cast that provides many many genuine and open-hearted moments.  In his Canadian debut, Morgan David Jones gives Peter such understanding to his past that we can sympathize to his current condition and, while at times a little overwrought, Brenda Matthews works hard to bring the mother’s demons into focus.  It is Lesli Brownlee however that provides the biggest emotional depth of the night as Peter’s sister Janie who endures the darkest of family secrets.

As his first production since returning to Vancouver, Parliament once again proves he is a force to be reckoned pushing the limits of queer theatre in this city.  Welcome home, Randi Parliament, welcome home indeed.

With only four remaining performances, Vancouver theatregoers need to act fast.  With a dearth of queer theatre in this city there is no excuse for an empty seat.

4 Out of 5 StarsThe Pitch and Mother May I

The Pitch written and directed by Jordan Patterson.  Mother May I written and directed by Randie Parliament.  A Ghost Light Projects production.  On stage at the PAL Theatre through March 18, 2012.  Visit http://www.ghostlightprojects.com for tickets and information.

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