D. Travers Scott

at Club Lower Links

D. Travers Scott’s performance last Saturday at Club Lower Links took the more nightmarish gay male stereotypical behavior–anonymous sex, sadism and masochism, transvestism, and even serial killing–gave them a lick, and spit on them. It wasn’t a rant or a tantrum. Scott seems remarkably free of self-righteousness, or even guilt (except for a slight preoccupation with racism).

What he’s got is plenty of attitude and humor. When–decked in boyish shorts and tight T-shirt–he describes himself as having once been a budding drag queen, he dares us to tell him that he really doesn’t fit the stereotype. And when he describes his friend Jonathan as a “piggy little bottom” we laugh nervously–at Scott’s bitchiness, and quite possibly at our own occasional pettiness.

Throughout The Final Product, Scott’s material is explicitly gay in both content and context, but though he treats the audience as an insider he doesn’t presume to know our own orientation. He doesn’t seek to educate the heterosexual crowd, and his material isn’t so culturally particular that it speaks only to gay men.

Scott’s good at making us part of the story he’s telling. In “Instructions,” a tale about a novice visit to a gay male porn shop, he begins by just describing the setting as if with stage directions. “The front room is well-lit and contains a big, wide green counter that covers two-thirds of the floor space,” he says in a flat, exacting tone. But later in the story, looking around the shop’s back room at all the guys prowling for sex, Scott cocks his head and says, “You’re pretty cute yourself.” We aren’t quite sure whether he means he’s pretty cute or we–suddenly characters in this scary monologue–are pretty cute.

Most disturbing is the final piece, from which the show takes its title. “The Final Product,” which unabashedly exploits the Jeffrey Dahmer case, feeds on so many fears and stereotypes about gay men that it’s simply dizzying.

It starts out innocently enough. Scott, again at his boyish best, tells us how he and his roommate got arrested for drinking a beer on the CTA. That leads into a story about an ex-boyfriend who almost got picked up by serial killer John Wayne Gacy. OK, he tells us, he’s stretching the truth–the guy, it turns out, wasn’t really his boyfriend but just a guy he talked to at a bar. “But it’s so much more thrilling to say he was my lover,” he says gleefully. “Then it’s like I almost slept with one of Gacy’s victims, which in turn is like almost second-handedly sleeping with Gacy himself!”

By the time Scott’s dancing around to the strains of “It Must Be Him” in bloody underwear, we’re quite unsure whether this is his fantasy or ours. The image–both ridiculous and terrifying–is haunting. It’s the kind of juicy stuff antigay advocates love. And it’s unquestionably sensational–but that’s Scott’s point. These extremes may not be commonplace, but they’re what define the space in between, where most of us exist.

Also riveting is “Brand New Day,” a monologue over a blurry porn film. In it Scott looks back at the AIDS epidemic from a future that portrays common culture as HIV-infected to the point of saturation. In this scary vision, Quayle is president, universal health care is doomed, and symptomatic HIV-positive people have developed their own hedonistic subculture similar to the 1970s gay disco milieu. “Fiction,” a disturbing reading from Obsessions magazine about sadistic porn fantasy, leads into “Activism,” in which Scott skewers the egos and motivations of gay and lesbian community activism with material that resembles recent real-life headlines in the gay and lesbian press.

Some of the material doesn’t work–most of the films Scott shows in The Final Product are amateurish in comparison to his live performance, and some of the writing still needs revision. Transitions within the pieces are often lacking; Scott tends to rely too much on a bored “anyway” to move him from one moment to the next. All in all, though, Scott’s performance is a treat for the mind and the senses.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Debra Levie.