There are so many ways that the notion of gender can be fucked with (or – to continue a theme “f*cked” with) that the idea of throwing it all up there on the stage and cabareting the hell out of is an appealing one. Mariah MacCarthy’s The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret (directed by Heidi Handelsman) takes a whole lotta gender and then, indeed, fucks with it like crazy.
All the stereotypes are there in full force: as Ms. MacCarthy put it in her interview with me earlier this month “a Feminine Woman, a Feminine Man, a Masculine Woman, a Masculine Man, a Gay Woman, a Gay Man, a Promiscuous Woman, and a Promiscuous Man. Which translates roughly into Girly Girl, Nice Guy/Metrosexual, Tomboy, Meathead, Feminist Lesbian, Gay Best Friend, Slut, and Player.” However, even though these labels are slapped onto the envelopes of these characters, they are soon peeled away with just as much intention. So, just when you think you know what’s what you’ll find that the tough girl, Devon, (Lauren Hennessy) is actually not a lesbian (what?) - she’s just a tomboy. And that sweet guy, Benji (Jordan Tierney)? No, he is not gay (huh?). He’s actually very straight – and the best lover his (promiscuous girlfriend) Gwen (Catherine LeFrere) has ever had. Meanwhile the mouthy guy, Dick (Jamahl Garrison-Lowe) who talks the talk doesn’t walk the walk at all. He’s a (gasp) virgin and would rather talk to his toddler nephew than seriously pursue a woman. But you’d never know it from the way he throws out statistics of his romantic conquests.
All this is MC’d by the androgynous (or genderqueer, take your pick) Taylor (Kim Gainer) who has characteristics of both sexes, the wisdom of a boatload of every gender combo you can think of, but is walking through this mine field right along with the rest of us. There you have it, folks. Welcome to The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret.
One note – if you come to the show looking for a traditional cabaret, you should understand that the term is used in a loose sort of way. Think more “Cabaret” than cabaret – meaning more story than music, though there is a fair share of production numbers that are rousing, energetic, and enough to get you bopping in your seat. Still, what you’ll mainly be seeing is a series of vignettes that define, defend, devour and denounce everything you ever thought you knew about what it means to be a man, to be a woman, or to leave that box unchecked on the form.
The most important points that The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret make are 1) people, in an effort to make sure they are not judged solely on their gender insecurities, will often overcompensate and swing widely in the other direction, desperately trying to find validation, only to then feel remorse, anger, confusion and diminishment when they are misunderstood, or (more harshly) mis-labeled. And while the greater notion is that no one should be labeling anyone else, to expect this is naive. And 2) Gender rarely – if ever – should be confused with sexuality and yet every day it (mistakenly) is. Who you are inclined to have sex with has no bearing on how aligned you are to your gender. Nowhere is this point more perfectly illustrated than in the budding romance between Kate (Yeauxlanda Kay) – a lesbian who finds herself drawn to the undefined Taylor and can’t allow herself to dive into the relationship without first knowing Taylor’s gender … rather than Taylor’s orientation. The fact that the two are equally attracted to each other doesn’t seem to help Kate make the decsion as much as knowing Taylor’s gender would. Fascinating.
None of these characters have simple story-lines which travel from point a to point b in a traditional way; and because of that we’re afforded the opportunity to see some scenarios play out in ways that manipulate normal boundaries. There are time shifts, dream sequences, dance breaks, behind-the-scenes exposition, all aided by the gender-removed-all-knowing-all-seeing Taylor who gets a storyline of her own. I mean his own. Shis own? I don’t think we have a possessive pronoun yet for those unhindered by conventional gender boundaries, but I would hope we’re working on it.
Regardless of your own orientation, predilection, or habits you’ll find something in The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret to identify with. Probably in ways that will surprise you – and it might even be from a character you’d never have aligned yourself with going in. But that’s how they roll at the Genderf*ck Cabaret. Go see for yourself.
Written by Mariah MacCarthy
Directed by Heidi Handelsman
(running in rep with The Un-Marrying Project)
64 East 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
April 20, 22, 26, 28, & 30 at 8pm
and April 23, & 24 at 2pm
Click Here for tickets