HELIOGABALUS: A LOVE STORY written and directed by Sky Gilbert, with Jefferson Guzman, Ellen-Ray Hennessy and Sam Nulf. Presented by the Cabaret Company at the Theatre Centre (1087 Queen West). Runs to April 27, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, matinee Sunday 2:30 pm. $12, Sunday pwyc. 416-538-0988. Rating: NN
Ho-hum -- another sky gilbert rant draped in flimsy theatrics. Despite some fascinating ideas, both dramatic and political, Gilbert relies on preaching rather than drama to drive home his points about the joys of sex, mainstream medicine and society's view of effeminacy.Heliogabalus: A Love Story begins well enough with a modern guy (Sam Nulf) explaining that his lover (Jefferson Guzman) is not just fixated on the third-century AD Roman ruler Heliogabalus but also considers himself the randy emperor's incarnation.
But as he draws parallels between the contemporary lover and the historic figure, we end up listening to drawn-out dialogues, watching faux sex scenes and being made part of the action.
The best elements of the show are Steve Lucas's set, which turns the Theatre Centre into a Roman temple and palace, and Ellen-Ray Hennessy's triple-duty, nicely differentiated work as Heliogabalus's voracious, cough-wracked mother, the minister of the interior and an ill prostitute.
Too often, though, Gilbert lectures rather than demonstrates, finally making a statement about what he sees as society's ultimate freak, the effeminate gay. Wish he'd developed his characters and explored the ideas in a more dramatically engaging fashion.