Despite the raunchy discussion of every kind of sex, the flamboyantly omnisexual emcee, and, oh yes, the title – The All-American Genderf**k Cabaret – this irreverent satire sheathes a compassionate lament for the difficulty of forging meaningful relationships amid the sexual maelstrom of the 21st century.
Thinking Cap Theatre’s uneven production of Mariah MacCarthy’s in-your-face fantasia has serious flaws, but it’s also undeniably funny throughout its first act and occasionally touching in the second, as twentysomethings stumble about in the minefield of gender stereotypes and sexual expectations.
Set in a sideshow complete with funhouse mirrors that don’t reflect reality, the episodic Genderf**k Cabaret resembles the old Love, American Style TV series melded with Saturday Night Live on an evening when the censors went to bed early.
Transgendered emcee Taylor, who favors spandex leggings and teal leather, introduces eight apparent stereotypes, including the man-hating lesbian, the over-the-top hairdresser, the sensitive male, the tomboy, the chest-bumping buddy, the club player, the woman who sleeps around and more. But the emcee interrupts collisions among the denizens to dish on the three-dimensional personalities beneath the shallow personas.
Each, including Taylor, is straitjacketed by mainstream society’s pigeonholing definitions. But as the nine mix and match during the evening, MacCarthy reveals them as lonely people longing to make connections. Notably, the physical couplings or attempts to do so usually get in the way. In fact, no one speaks the word “love,” let alone hopes for it, until the most unlikely couple off-handedly mentions it in the last scene.
Both the production at Fort Lauderdale’s Empire Stage and the script itself have major flaws. The play lasts way too long. Episodes are not acted or directed in a way that puts a definitive end to scenes. Some scenes such as dance breaks, while cute and imaginative, are extraneous. Some actors are a lot more vibrant and convincing than others.
Still, director Nicole Stodard and her cast deliver the anarchic, droll style that MacCarthy was looking for. Stodard has also gotten some of the best work to date from several actors, especially Christina Jolie Breza as a personal trainer who hasn’t had sex in 2 ½ years and James Carrey as a thick-headed beau who eventually finds his way to a relationship. Also in the cast are Nori Tecosky, Danny Nieves, Desiree Mora, Andy Herrmann, Andrea Bovino and Arturo Sierra. Noah Levine gives the most indelible performance as the sardonic, flirty emcee who watches the human comedy with empathy emanating from his mascara-ringed eyes and a sensuous slash of downturned lips.
MacCarthy also punctuates the play with melancholic grace notes. The supposedly loose party girl betrays her inability to deal with people when she says she has sex with virtually anyone because it’s easier than having to deal with explaining to a man why she doesn’t really want to sleep with him.
At its core, the play is recommending a live-and-let-live philosophy that finds less worth in labels than true emotion. As one character says, “Gender is not a two-party system…. It’s not black and white. It’s Technicolor.”