Art Briefs

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Hit the Wall
Written by Ike Holter
Directed by Eric Hoff
Barrow Street Theatre, New York

Hit the Wall (a pun, of course, referring to the Stonewall Inn) is a reinterpretation of some of the events and interactions—including Judy Garland’s funeral—that may have occurred on the day of the first of the Stonewall Riots: July 27, 1969. The cast includes stock characters (a young African-American and his friend, a young Latino, who travel by subway and bus just to hang out on the stoops of Christopher Street, where they feel a little safer to be themselves); the repressed, well-dressed thirty-something gay man who picks up tricks on the street; a kid right out of Midnight Cowboy who’s new in town. But the most compelling characters are a blonde baby dyke (whose straight sister shows up, begging her to come home if she’d only give up her sexuality) and the African-American drag queen, surely a stand-in for the late activist Sylvia Rivera, who really was at the Riots. It’s pretty certain that no one will ever know exactly who reacted first to the police raid, or if the majority of protesters were young gay men, or baby butches, or drag queens: they were all sick and tired of being harassed and hated. (Hit the Wall posits the baby dyke—perhaps inspired by a tentative friendship with the drag queen—starting it all.) The tiny stage of the Barrow Street Theatre stands in for Christopher Street (which is literally a stone’s throw away) and one lone policeman represents the entire force. Although Hit the Wall is a little didactic, it provides an uplifting and compelling theatrical experience.

Maurice Gold

 

 

OUTlaw
Music by Drake Jensen
Soaring Eagle Productions

“Every cowboy has a story,” sings Drake Jensen on “OUTlaw” (and yes, the “OUT” is in caps). And boy, does this country singer have a story to tell! A native of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Jensen is virtually alone in the world of country music, an openly gay man in a straight man’s world. In 2012, shortly after he came out, the 43-year-old Jensen dedicated the title track of his debut album On My Way to Finding You to the memory of an Ottawa teenager who committed suicide after enduring anti-gay bullying. On this, his second album, he sings in “Scars” of bullied teens who keep their “shame and anger under lock and key.” “Checotah, Oklahoma” and “Midnight Forest Cricket Chorus” are two other highlights: here, too, Jensen eschews the banalities of country balladry for a more rooted bluegrass sound. None of the songs on “OUTlaw” is directed expressly to other men, but songs like “Be” and “Crazy Beautiful” are gay-positive affirmations nonetheless. Because Jensen’s voice can be froggy and unexciting, the former song is aided by a bright vocal backup. Still, this outlaw’s message transcends the limits of genre: “Let yourself be crazy beautiful.”

Colin Carman

 

One True Thing
Music by Tylan
Wild Awake Music (BMI)

Tylan Greenstein had a bad year. In 2010, she experienced the simultaneous breakups of her sixteen-year relationship and her band Girlyman, the latter due to the lead singer’s diagnosis with leukemia. “I found myself staring it all down mostly alone,” the folk singer has said. “I was terrified.” Dropping her last name, Tylan has released her first solo effort, One True Thing. It includes heartbreakers such as “Bitter Glass” and “Love Then,” the latter set “beyond the parking lots of banished old desires,” asking: “where was our love then [and]where is it now?” A Dobro guitar brightens the mood on “Earthquakes,” a duet with Lucy Wainwright Roche (Rufus’s younger sister). And if Tylan’s debt to the Indigo Girls weren’t already obvious, Amy Ray lends her vocals on “Already Fine.” The album as a whole lives up to its earnest title track, and on a third duet “Lying In My Grave” (featuring Coyote Grace), Tylan imagines that she’s sharing a grave with an old lover. It has all the romantic morbidity of an Emily Dickinson poem. Mostly somber and sparse, “One True Thing” is proof that with great anguish comes great artistry.

Colin Carman

 

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