An Obviously Foggot
Bastion Carboni's new play is a confrontational mess, but it's vital in its commentary on bigotry within gay communities
Reviewed by Dan Solomon, Fri., April 12, 2013
An Obviously FoggotThe Basement, 422 Congress (entrance on West Fifth)
Through April 13
Running time: 50 min.
An Obviously Foggot is angry theatre. That's not a surprise: Poison Apple Initiative's Bastion Carboni, who wrote, directed, and choreographed the performance, has written angry plays before. But this one, which takes on the internalized homophobia and transphobia inside LGBT communities, is downright confrontational.
Set inside a working gay bar (the bartenders continue taking orders during the performance), An Obviously Foggot has staging – the action happens all around the audience, in a concrete basement, often while loud music plays over the PA – that's designed to remove audiences from their comfort zones. For gay audience members, the play takes a safe place and introduces a violent depiction of uglier things they may have seen, heard, and said. For straight folks, it includes an expressed reminder that they're invading someone else's space just by walking down the stairs.
That aggressive push to make an audience uncomfortable extends to the performance itself. Largely a collection of related sketches, An Obviously Foggot wastes no time jumping from scene to scene. A PSA-style skit about Alan Turing, a father of modern computing who committed suicide after receiving hormone treatment to reduce his libido, follows a harsh dialogue about AIDS fetishization; an abstract dance sequence depicting Jeffrey Dahmer's predatory use of gay bars and the complicity of the police, set to Lady Gaga's "Boys Boys Boys," transitions into another straightforward setup; characters talk over one another while delivering hateful monologues about transgender people or older gay folks. If it ran for longer than it does, the performance would risk sensory overload.
An Obviously Foggot isn't a great play, at least in its current, workshopped form – there are too many confusing skits juxtaposed with on-the-nose examples of bigotry to be that – but it's a vital one. There are none of the appeals to a so-called traditional model of relationships that define so many of the portrayals of gay life in the media at the moment. You rarely see the depictions of generation-bending open relationships that exist in this play – which only makes it more important that these perspectives on gay culture are presented. Otherwise, it all gets smoothed into a mess of heteronormativity that ensures that any progress made on the front of gay rights doesn't apply to gay folks who don't conform to the "new normal."
And at its core, that's what An Obviously Foggot is about. It's a confrontational mess of dance and hate speech and sexuality and music, about a culture whose divisions-within-divisions are largely a mystery to those who know it best from the colors of their friends' Facebook icons. It says something important to both its gay and its straight audiences, but what it says to each of them is different. It's messy, but so are the issues with which it deals. It's more interesting, at this point, to see an ambitious, confrontational mess than a cleanly executed piece on a homogenously depicted gay culture that continues to spin the same wheels.