Tyson James (left), Chy Ryan Spain and Hallie Burt can’t flush out show’s problems.
QUEER BATHROOM STORIES by Sheila Cavanagh (Libido Productions). At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (12 Alexander). Runs to June 15. $20-$25. 416-975-8555. See listings. Rating: NN
A little goes a long way in Sheila Cavanagh's well-meaning but monotonous show about queer comings and goings in bathrooms.
Cavanagh is an associate professor at York University, and Queer Bathroom Stories is a verbatim show drawn from over 100 interviews with LGBTQ people for a book. The material is frequently fascinating, but Cavanagh hasn't shaped it into anything resembling theatre.
That's not the fault of the three-person cast (Hallie Burt, Tyson James and the excellent Chy Ryan Spain), who quickly and energetically morph into various people across the gender and orientation spectrum to enact anecdotes or memories. There's special emphasis on transgender people, who are frequently harassed and abused for walking into the "wrong" bathroom.
But neither Cavanagh nor director Megan Watson has structured the stories in a way that builds momentum or provides an arc. Clear subject divisions might have helped, as would telling one or two articulate interviewees' stories over the course of the show, to be interspersed with shorter bits.
Because the monologues are drawn from real life, we're subjected to such clichéd phrases as "muster up courage" and "beady little eyes."
But occasionally a story stands out amidst the repetition. The brief monologue about an Islamic man sitting for hours in a stall looking for some sort of connection is powerful. And a scene about a trans woman auto worker's experience is horrific.
There's humour in stories like a co-worker's misinterpretation of a queer colleague's masturbation in a stall, or a gay guy's experience with what he thinks is homophobic locker room talk.
But the pace is slow and the tone dull, and despite the appearance of two toilets at the front of the playing area, the lack of props, costumes and drama fails to bring these stories off the page and onto the stage.