WILL THE REAL J. T. LEROY PLEASE STAND UP? written and directed by Sky Gilbert (Cabaret Company). At Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). To April 22. $17, stu/srs $15. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
In Will the Real J.T. Leroy Please Stand Up? , "fiction" and "fact" battle to a piss-stained pulp for the right to represent truth and self-expression.
The play, inspired by a real-life literary hoax, opens with Amanda ( Suzanne Bennett ), a female 40-something writer who gains fortune and fame authoring books as J. T. LeRoy, a transgendered teen.
For personal appearances she employs unwilling teenager Sabrina ( Amber Ebert ). Amanda loses it when a young tranny ( Ryan Kelly ) visits, claiming to be the "real" J. T. LeRoy, uncovers Amanda's secret and threatens to expose her. They engage in an angry philosophical battle, stopping only to visit with Tatum O'Neill ( Ellen Ray Hennessy ), whose name has been altered from that of the Hollywood Tatum who really did fall hard for the hoax.
Sometimes the dialogue becomes repetitive, hammering on the play's themes. But Gilbert's audacious wordplay and barbed retorts redeem it. And he knows his audience - a Kathy Acker reference in particular elicits howls of laughter. Other times, dubious motivations weaken the play. The visiting J. T. wants to leave but never believably tries to, and what possesses Amanda to leave the angry teen alone in her office?
The acting is strong. Bennett captures the angst of an aging ex-rocker/writer, and Kelly effectively oscillates between watery-eyed gazes and calculated loathing. Ebert is authentically teenaged. But the show belongs to Hennessy. In a gloriously gaudy dress by costumer Sheree Tams, the brilliant Hennessy creates her own Tatum-ness with colossal comic results.
The entire play takes place in one room. With its abundance of rock memorabilia, books and posters, Steve Lucas 's realistic office set captures and holds your attention.