Tuesday, May 11, 2010

But What We Are Is An Illusion

I saw the LA CAGE revival a little over a week ago, and it was basically what I expected, although I had no idea the material would hit as close to home for me as it did. Not that I am a gay man whose engaged son thinks I'm not "masculine" enough for his conservative finacee's parents, but I am going through something similar that definitely colored my experience of the show. Knowing the plot and a few of the songs, I never thought I would tear up at any point during LA CAGE--I'm not much of a Jerry Herman girl (though I am mildly obsessed with "I Won't Send Roses"). But obviously I underestimated how much the subject matter would affect me, and even though I felt a little ridiculous, I always love it when a show moves me in an unexpected way.

Having said that, I'm not much of a fan of the material itself, although I had a good time and I loved the performances (Kelsey Grammar's in particular, and I really enjoyed Robin de Jesus). My main issue with the show is that it feels so dated and not edgy anymore. I know in 1984, LA CAGE was groundbreaking, and I think it's exactly what audiences (and theatre people) needed at that particular time. But right now, when this is its second revival and when the political and social climate has changed, particularly regarding homosexuality, I wish the production had been more innovative. What Georges and Jean-Michel ask of Albin is devastating and horrifying; that Albin comes around to it is a huge display of love and trust that for me didn't come across. What I would really love to see in the show would be some non-traditional casting choices, which I feel would add another layer to the show and restore some of the edginess I'm sure it originally had. Being an infant during the original run, I can only go off what I've heard :)

Specifically, I would absolutely love to see an actor of Asian descent play Albin (B.D. Wong, anyone?). I think that would make a lot of scenes completely terrifying, especially the one in the second act where Albin tries to act more "masculine." With all the negative stereotypes about Asian men--many of which are very similar to negative stereotypes about gay men--that number would be not just about acting "masculine," but about acting "white." Granted, I'm probably more sensitive to the issue since my boyfriend is of Asian descent, but I think it's an important issue that isn't often seen on a Broadway stage. It would definitely make that scene a lot more uncomfortable for audiences, but it really bothered me that the scene was played for laughs. I found it just heartbreaking, and I think an Asian Albin would bring that element out, simply by his ethnicity.


  1. You know what else I would really like to see? An Albin who isn't over-the-top effeminate. What if you had an Albin who was already "masculine" enough as it was? There are so many fascinating directions you could take that in! I mean, Douglas is fine and everything, and he'll probably win the Tony and people love him and blah blah blah, but I was really hoping to see a new take on that character.

  2. That would be AMAZING. Especially if he were Asian! Then it would clearly be a race/cross-dressing thing. Wow, I would love to see that show. That's a big reason I'm sad Kelsey Grammar won't be playing Albin, after all--I really think he would have done interesting things with the role.