Fringe review: Gay For Pay With Blake & Clay is straight-up brilliant

Curtis te Brinke and Daniel Krolik's mock seminar about teaching straight actors how to play gay delivers savage cultural satire


gay for pay blake clay fringe 2022
Photo of Daniel Krolik by Kevin Connery

GAY FOR PAY WITH BLAKE & CLAY by Curtis te Brinke and Daniel Krolik (Convection Productions/Toronto Fringe Festival). At the Tarragon Extraspace (30 Bridgman). July 13 at 8 pm, July 14 at 3:45 pm, July 15 at 8:15 pm, July 16 at 4:45 pm. See listing. Rating: NNNN


Only recently have openly queer actors begun playing gay roles – think of the all-gay Boys In The Band; last month’s Fire Island; the upcoming film Bros and Netflix series Uncoupled.

But for the longest time, gay actors have had to sit by and watch as straight actors go “gay for pay” and earn critical raves and awards. Think Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, Sean Penn in Milk, Javier Bardem in When Night Falls, Darren Criss in American Crime Story. The list is endless.

Now underemployed gay actors Blake (Daniel Krolik) and Clay (Jonathan Wilson) are trying to capitalize on that trend by holding a seminar for straight actors wanting such choice parts. The two attempt to teach the participants (us, in the audience) everything from the types of gay men they can conceivably play to standard queer film moments and how to engage in onscreen sex scenes. The subject of gay sex prompts one of many quotable lines: “It’s like meeting up for a fantasy football league. You trade stats for a while before everyone leaves disappointed.”

As razor sharp satire, Gay For Pay succeeds brilliantly. Writers Curtis te Brinke, who also directs, and Krolik know their subject well, and illustrate it with bitchy bons mots and hilarious photos – the Chris Meloni pic alone deserves some sort of cult following.

There’s plenty of anger simmering beneath the script’s surface, especially in an audience participation section on fighting back. (You know you’re at an exciting show when some audience members go “Whoa!”)

While both actors are expert at rousing the audience and making their points – Wilson in particular delivers his lines in a hushed, shyly charming way that draws you in – a serious subplot about the complexities of being a gay actor in the industry could be more artfully integrated into the script.

But that’s quibbling. If this show were being mounted during the regular theatre season, it would likely be up for awards. Considering the talented all-queer artistic team, that’s only fair.

Jonathan Wilson is one of NOW’s 10 artists to watch at this year’s Fringe. See the full list here.

@glennsumi

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