ARTHOUSE CABARET devised by Jim LeFrancois and David Oiye (Buddies in Bad Times, 12 Alexander). To October 20. $15-$25. 416-975-8555. Rating: NN
Presenting a two-hour homo history in a cabaret setting is, of course, a daunting task. But you'd think North America's leading queer theatre company - Buddies in Bad Times - could come up with something more compelling than Arthouse Cabaret , one of the most disappointing season openers in recent memory.
Emceed by the amusing Keith Cole , whose trampy opening- and closing-sequence rags are almost worth the price of admission, the show takes us through various stages or moments in gay and lesbian life.
But co-creators Jim LeFrancois and David Oiye haven't conceived those moments - or their overall structure - very carefully.
The show has a random feel, as if a bunch of people they knew said, "I have this bit," and they mashed them all together.
Hence, musicians Lynn Phillips , Jonathan Monro and Paula Wolfson deliver, with mixed results, numbers by everyone from Cole Porter (closeted), Rough Trade (out before it was cool) to Rufus Wainwright (never in). Sometimes a little shadow play accompanies the ditties on Daniele Guevara 's wide set, sometimes not.
The least successful sequences involve Alexandra Tigchelaar ( Sasha Van Bon Bon ) and Catherine Nimmo 's ( Kitty Neptune ) burlesque bits, which feel monotonous and lack any sort of political or sexual subtext besides the most obvious. In addition, the entire program seems devoid of much lesbian content.
The most sophisticated and theatrically electric sequences are delivered by 2 boys.tv ( Stephen Lawson and Aaron Pollard ), who fuse drag, lip-synching and video to comment intelligently on themes like pleasure, fascism and the Catholic Church.
Lawson's first-act closer - a two-pronged look at societal delayed gratification that morphs into a larger-than-life Judy Garland impression-cum-gay-emancipation march - is richer and more substantial than much of what follows in the second act.