Raw Hosanna HOSANNA by Michel Tremblay, translated by Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay, directed by Wendy Thatcher, with Alastair Hudson and Tony Nappo. Presented by Shockalot Productions at Tallulah's Cabaret, Buddies in Bad Times (12 Alexander). Runs to March 25, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $15-$20. 416-975-8555. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
seeing a gay drag queen and her leather-clad boyfriend unclip their costumes and spill their guts onstage isn't as shocking today as it must have been a couple of decades ago. But Michel Tremblay's Hosanna, first produced in 1973 and presented in Martin Bowman and Bill Findlay's Scots-dialect translation here for the first time, still packs raw, disturbing power and relevance.The show opens with Hosanna (Brit actor Alastair Hudson) made up to look like Elizabeth Taylor in the film Cleopatra. After a disastrous -- it's yet to be revealed just how -- Halloween night, the long-legged Hosanna has returned to her gaudily made-up apartment to lick her wounds. Gradually, as she and Cuirette (local actor Tony Nappo, resembling the villain from Popeye) argue, their surfaces crack and we begin to sympathize with their disenfranchised lives.
The play that was once seen as a political statement about cultural identity has, in 2001, become a look at the bitchiness, self-criticizing and power-mongering that goes on within any minority group. The Scots translation works well -- you might call the play Tranniespotting -- even if Hudson's accent is more reliable than Nappo's.
Wendy Thatcher directs carefully, sometimes too carefully. A lack of spontaneity makes some passages feel as arch as Hosanna's high heels. The baggy second act could stand a nip and a tuck, and the show is so emotionally relentless that the seemingly frivolous girl-group numbers before and after scenes come as a relief.
One note: the nude scene that ends the show is the most moving and relevant display of flesh I have seen onstage. It's not distracting, it's necessary.