Saturday, October 1, 2016


Isn't it rich, isn't it QUEEEEEEEER
Losing my timing this late in my career
And where are the clowns
Quick send in the clowns
Don't bother, they're here…

Sondheim, from A Little Night music

David Benjamin Tomlinson as Mathieu (photos are not from the opening night performance)

The presence of the clown provides a mask for us to lose our sense of seriousness within, ultimately revealing just how hilarious our emotions can be when we let down our guard and try to relate in an honest way to another individual. And then, add sex - or even the possibility of sex - and the red nose becomes a throbbing red nose, and all - well, it all breaks loose.
In the man on man version of Blind Date, following last weeks woman on woman segment of Rebecca Northan’s smash hit improv ‘romanticomical’ play, there is a remarkable sequence that turns Sesame Street into Sexame Street and  Avenue Q into a boulevard of x-rated wet dreams. But perhaps the most curious and complex moment comes when the two men approach, well, we want no spoilers here. Suffice to say that the two male members were at an uproarious loss when a traditionally woman centred act occurred on stage, and it made for hilarious and unsettling theatre attesting to age old stereotypes around bodies and . . . well, again, no spoilers here. It of course will be different each night as the audience member is selected and moves through this very revealing enterprise in queer theatre and queer romance.
After seeing three instalments of Northan’s meta-creation (straight, lesbian, and gay) what becomes crystal clear is the tendency to flirt with an attractive person on one’s first encounter in a French restaurant with wine and attentive staff. Quell Surprise!. Everyone is lovely and handsome and butch and femme, the whole 69 yards. Some participants may be somewhat tentative, and as Northan suggested in a brief conversation before last week’s opening, some straight men tend to be somewhat more ‘terrified’ when it is a decidedly heterosexual date. Indeed, the one straight instalment I saw last year at Tarragon Theatre had a charming and affectionate young fellow who was very sweet and very funny and very well behaved. Which begs the question; how much would any given spectator like to experience an evening of Blind Date when things go terribly wrong? Part of the dramatic tension is created by this possibility. The very casual and social cocktail party ‘auditioning for a date’ section pre-show can only cover so much ground. Ultimately, in an age of reality television, there really needs to be a documentary of this play with segments from many performances, revealing some juicy ‘out takes’ from what few theatregoers are able to take part in due to the wonderfully unpredictable improv nature of this enthralling premise. BRAVO and HBO where are you?

From a traditional perspective, well, the two queer dates these past two weeks have been a little less well behaved than the straight date I was privy to at Tarragon last year, and they certainly don’t seem terrified. A little bashful at times perhaps, but that quickly falls away and the real fun begins. Is this what queer can do, at the best of times? Strip us of certain inhibitions that the straight dating world sometimes hinges on? One doesn’t want to generalize, but this does seem to occur, by degree, when the bent clowns are sent in and it is rich and it is queer.

One can speculate upon how oppression of the sexual kind can force individuals into more ‘out there’ personas after having to deal with the closet scenario for much of their lives. And when it is two women the oppressive notion that a woman must be more demure and less aggressive - well, that fell away quite quickly when Mimi had her opening night Bind Date last week at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre. And when Matthieu, played with six feet four inches (did he really say six foot four to his a date? - it was thrilling? I was in a scotch coma? thanks Patricia xo) of stature and charm by David Benjamin Tomlinson at the second opening of this alternating queer exercise in semi random dating, well, there was no attempt at demure. It was all style and grace of the skilfully charged kind - (reminding me of my favourite sung line from Funny Girl - “isn’t this the height of nonchalance, furnishing a bed in restaurants”).
Beginning with coming out stories and moving into hilarious sexually charged scenes, both Tomlinson and his momentary paramour were vastly entertaining. There was light sarcasm, clever wit, and lips on lips/hips on hips action throughout, coming from both sides, with one delightful moment when Mathieu’s very long legs straddled the couch and the date in a flexible & enthralling manner. 

There was also a fascinating cross border Chicago/Toronto exchange that makes one more curious about being blown in the windy city. I only address this oral fixed-destination because, needless to say, sex is the thing that seems to come to the forefront in a way that did not occur in the straight version. This perhaps happens in some het instalments. And yet, the gender games that have dominated the last century and beyond would suggest that there would be a very different dynamic between opposite sexes, if there even is such a thing.

And forgive my slight academic denouement, but as Foucault suggested in his history of sexuality, when we look back on our preoccupation with all things sexed and gendered over the past few centuries we might laugh - and cry - a little at how much time we spent on the rigorous rituals of lust. And that is precisely what Blind Date does - in a fun provocative manner - as it masks the seriousness by putting a big red nose on the lightheartedness and allowing us to laugh uproariously at our own behaviour through the lens of a blushing, throbbing single date. 

Julie Orton and David Benjamin Tomlinson as Mimi & Mathieu

Alas and hooray, Blind Date makes beautiful clowns of us all - lovely, charming, flirtatious, femme, butch, risky, dangerous, playful, and and possibly, only the performing clown knows for sure, on one stormy night, filled with all kinds of risky romantic potential.

running in rep 
at Buddies In Bad Times Theatre 
with Julie Orton as Mimi 
and David Benjamin Tomlinson as Mathieu 
until October Ninth

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