Zebra Crossing Theatre

at the Theatre Building

If the gay activists who demonstrated at the Academy Awards Monday night are looking for a new source of stereotypes to protest, they should check out Gays of Our Lives . . . The Play, Claudia Allen’s soap-opera spoof. If this show had been put together by straight people, the Queer Nation radicals might very well be up in arms against its portrayal of sexual minorities as sexually compulsive, dishonest, and dangerous people whose daily routines involve recruiting heterosexuals, breaking up families, and stealing each other’s lovers without a shred of remorse.

But context is all, apparently. Gays of Our Lives, whose purpose is to outdo TV’s daytime dramas in sheer bathetic outrageousness, is clearly intended as an in-group entertainment, and much of the packed house at the performance I saw last weekend responded with the kind of whooping laughter that a good party show can provoke.

Originally mounted in three installments, Gays of Our Lives has been running intermittently for the last few months as an off-night cult attraction. The early performances can be charitably described as community theater, but they helped build up enough word of mouth to win a prime-time slot in Zebra Crossing Theatre’s agenda. Allen has compressed the three episodes–“Chicken of the Sea,” “The Dragon Lady and Big Gaysha,” and “Women in and Behind Bars”–into one full-length play. Zebra Crossing’s artistic director Marlene Zuccaro has joined in as codirector (with Lee Roy Rogers, who helped conceive the story and directed the early performances) to give the show some helpful spark and a bit of technical finesse. Just a bit. Too much professionalism would overwhelm Allen’s slight and silly script.

Gays of Our Lives is packed with the melodramatic excess that characterizes the TV shows it’s making fun of. Hokey dialogue and improbable plotting are de rigueur; so are angst, guilt, and sexual obsession, not to mention adultery, transsexualism, and incest. Allen’s setting is an exotic fantasyland where everyone who isn’t homosexual should be–and soon will be. The story concerns a distinctly diverse family: Tip, a 40-ish widow; her gay son Lance, who’s on the rebound from an insensitive ex who mocked Lance’s sushi dinners as “bait”; her freewheeling bisexual daughter Kathleen; and her other daughter, the rigidly heterosexual Mary Pat, whose main activities are making babies, having babies, and nursing babies, though she also dabbles in environmental activism. Mary Pat is married to hunky Jeff, who can’t help but succumb to lusty Lance. When Jeff is mysteriously murderered, Mary Pat’s jealousy is charted up as the motive and she’s hauled off to the hoosegow–where she can’t help but succumb to her seductive cell mate Rhonda. Kathleen, meanwhile, has taken up with an organic-hippie lesbian named Jonquil, who really knows how to stir a salad–and who may also be Kathleen’s half sister. And where’s Mom during all this action? She’s gone to sea on an oil tanker–where, of course, she can’t help but succumb to Kitty, the ship’s sexy siren who’s got a “wife” in every port.

What with all this succumbing, the story’s romantic complications wander farther and farther afield–finally reaching Hong Kong, where Tip runs afoul of Kitty’s violently possessive China-doll spouse Ming. Unfortunately, the mystery surrounding Jeff’s slaying runs out of steam long before the characters, leaving the script to stew in its own sexual juices to increasingly tedious effect. What starts out as brash lampoonery gradually sinks into coarse and repetitive goofiness, like a party where the guests keep trying to have a good time long after they should have gone home.

The good-looking actors cavort through their roles with disarming friskiness and a notably relaxed openness to onstage intimacy and seminudity. The slickest and funniest work comes from perky Kevin Farrell as Lance, droll and quirky Sheila Myrcik as Kathleen, and extra-large comic caricaturist Colleen Sheehan as a peculiarly androgynous politician. But everyone projects the attitude of having a ball that’s essential to this kind of affair, and the audience responds with enthusiasm.

Still, the script’s comic appeal is undercut by its inversion of the old macho myth that all a dyke needs to straighten her out is a good lay from the right man. Why should an attitude that’s so offensive from one perspective be acceptable from another?