STRAIGHTS, Bailiwick Repertory. Imagine a world where heterosexuality is a sin and a drag queen named Big Sister monitors citizens to maintain compulsory promiscuity and dyke/fag conformity. Apparently playwright Dennis Safren hoped to shock audiences with just this scenario in his half-baked satire Straights, playing as part of Bailiwick’s “Pride Series ’98.” Unfortunately, Scott Cooper’s muddled direction and underrehearsed cast obscure whatever sharpness Safren’s confusing script might have had.

Safren’s story–about a straight rebel in this gay dictatorship–cross-sections Big Sister’s monolithic, dysfunctional, and dramaturgically inconsistent oppression. His intentions are blurred by nonsensical and conflicting plot developments, but I suspect he wanted to criticize the intolerance of all fundamentalist absolutism. Though Big Sister’s goals seem flip and goofy, s/he is definitely a drag queen with a heart of hate, building the ultimate white patriarchy with Nazi-style tactics: slavery, scientific experiments, and violence.

Since this regime values only the shallowest gay stereotypes, the sole possible hero is the homophobe, here played with irritating smugness by Kenner Estes. This shallowness reinforces the fantasies of the religious right, not the paradoxical pride of a queer community.

–Carol Burbank