A Queer Kiss between gay teens at Deep Dish Theater | Theater | Indy Week
Pin It

A Queer Kiss between gay teens at Deep Dish Theater 

Matthew Hager (left) and Daniel Doyle star in "A Queer Kiss."

Photo by Jonathan Young, courtesy of Deep Dish Theater

Matthew Hager (left) and Daniel Doyle star in "A Queer Kiss."

"You have girl lips." That's the weighted observation made by one teenage boy to another at the beginning of A Queer Kiss, a half-teasing, half-flirtatious comment that catalyzes a whole lot of emotional turmoil.

Bret (Daniel Doyle) and Scott (Matthew Hager) are both drama students and seniors in high school. Like most teenagers, they grapple with issues of identity, independence and self-worth, and come into conflicts with their parents. When the two kiss backstage and like it, their sexualities and internalized homophobia come to a head.

A Queer Kiss, which made its world premiere in Chapel Hill last weekend, was developed in January as part of Deep Dish Theater's New Play Workshop. Playwright Joel Drake Johnson drew upon his own experiences as a high school drama teacher in Chicago, where he witnessed the harassment of a gay student. A Queer Kiss strives to show that this type of discrimination is still commonplace—and can have deadly consequences.

Homophobia and bullying are important subjects that deserve to be dealt with in a frank and nuanced manner. Commendably, Johnson attempts to contextualize these issues in a way that has universal reach by focusing on Bret and Scott's difficult relationships with their parents. Under the direction of Paul Frellick, MaryKate Cunningham shines with warmth and vulnerability as Scott's mother, Lynn, and Catherine Rodgers gives a strong performance as Bret's mother, Cheryl, a woman torn between her natural love for her son and her distaste for his rude teenage treatment of her.

But A Queer Kiss still plays like a work in progress when it comes to the characterization of Bret and Scott, both of whom feel more like stereotypes than individuals. That's not the fault of the actors: Doyle masters the insecurity and surliness required of Bret, and Hager is appropriately wide-eyed and dramatic as Scott. But the play doesn't allow us into the boys' heads or hearts in a way that feels natural. Too much exposition is conveyed in stilted conversations between the boys and their parents, and Scott's over-the-top recitations of Shakespeare and a Sylvia Plath poem—video recordings made alone in his room, on his iPad—lack necessary context and motivation.

The result is that A Queer Kiss feels more like A Dramatic Play With an Important Message than a genuine reflection of a prejudiced society, embodied through two full-bodied teenagers. As scenes fluctuate between the boys' perspective and that of their parents, the drama escalates too quickly—more telling than showing. (Cheryl instructs her son to "Cool it, mister!" when he's not particularly worked up; Lynn tells her ex-husband to stop talking in "lawyer-speak," when it doesn't actually sound that way.)

Hopefully, these script problems will be straightened out as the play undergoes further revisions; the scenes that do succeed powerfully evoke the struggles between parents and adolescents to understand one another, and the difficulties of being gay in a society where homophobia is still insidiously present.

Correction:This review originally identified MaryKate Cunningham and Catherine Rodgers as playing, respectively, Bret's mother Lynn and Scott's mother Cheryl.

This article appeared in print with the headline "Hand in glove."

Related Locations

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Theater



Twitter Activity

Comments

I'm wondering why Dorfman specifically chose the Death and the Maiden quartet - deriving from the song Der Tod und …

by trishmapow on Forgiving is not forgetting in Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden (Theater)

Most Read

Most Recent Comments

I'm wondering why Dorfman specifically chose the Death and the Maiden quartet - deriving from the song Der Tod und …

by trishmapow on Forgiving is not forgetting in Ariel Dorfman's Death and the Maiden (Theater)

I'm not a theatergoer, so it was off my usual path to see this production. The small/ mighty cast approached …

by Aims Arches on A Superlative Adaptation of Virginia Woolf's Orlando Packs Centuries of Insight into a Fleet Eighty Minutes (Theater)

I personally am remarkably intrigued to see this production but since I can't drive myself to it I will sadly …

by Ryan Oliveira on David Harrower Lives Up to His Name in Blackbird, a Challenging Portrait of Abuse (Theater)

I wholeheartedly agree with the position that there should be more structured, civic support for the thriving arts community in …

by ShellByars on Common Ground Closed. Sonorous Road Might Be Next. Is It Curtains for Small, Affordable Theaters in the Triangle? (Theater)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation