by Matthew A. Everett | 8/6/09 •
An Odd Little Play – Not That There’s Anything Wrong With That
|single white fringe geek is the blog of matthew a. everett. in addition to being one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet, he blogs throughout the year about theater and culture.|
What an odd little play (and I mean that as a compliment). I thought I was gay. Then I saw Thin Mint. And now I’m starting to doubt my credentials. This play is so gay, it makes me feel almost straight by comparison.
The latest outing (no pun intended) from the guys at Bakery Theatre Company landed on my Top 10 list this year because I expected something bizarre and way over the top. I got what I expected, they just bumped that up by a multiple of ten.
Their Fringe-For-All preview promised audiences an abusive scout leader (Todd Bruse) berating the young men in his charge. His humiliation tactics were aimed at questioning not just their “manhood” but their very humanity. The full production, and Bruse, delivered a character so completely unhinged that as an audience member I almost felt like I had to step in and put a stop to it.
After an underground pinewood derby unseats the long-time champion Ted (Eric Weiman), Ted’s hideously mutilated body is found in the men’s room (sure, it’s a suicide, sure it is). His fellow scouts hike out to scatter his ashes and of course things go horribly, horribly wrong. The scoutmaster’s son Sterling (co-author/co-director Dylan Frederick), a flamboyant wimp with a fake British accent, keeps setting all the boys against one another (like father, like son), though he desperately just wants to belong. Good Strong (Nathan Barlow) is fighting a losing battle against his addiction to thin mint cookies, and a penchant for stealing library books. Bartholomew (Matthew Grathwol), the conservative Christian scout, can get a little too carried away in his religious fervor. Chuck (Satchel McCall) turns the tables on the counselor’s homophobic rants by coming out as gay, and the late Ted’s boyfriend, then strikes out on his own and joins up with some renegade girl scouts who are up to no good. Once the boys cross paths with the oversexed Mama (Madde Gibba) and not-so-sweet-as-she-seems Chloe (Maeve Moynihan), things quickly start unraveling. Some bondage, a couple of severed heads, and the brandishing of several pistols and knives later, well… yikes.
Frederick and co-author/co-director Anders Nerheim certainly aren’t shy about piling on outrageous plot twists and wacky characterizations. They encourage their energetic cast to go for it, and they hold nothing back. It can sometimes be just a bit overwhelming, or even repulsive, but it seems that strategy is quite deliberate. The Bakery Theatre Company don’t allow their audience the opportunity to drift, or to sit back passively. Thin Mint is very “in your face” and demands a response, positive or negative. The audience I was a part of was laughing nearly the entire time, recoiling only every now and again.
This scouting tale didn’t settle for homoerotic, it just went for the full-on homo. Part of the point seems to be skewering the supposed purity of the scouts. Not that the scouts don’t do good. But to pretend that there are no gay people involved in scouting, when it’s a breeding ground for all kinds of male bonding, does seem a bit ridiculous when presented in this light.
This production may just be too much of a good thing to fit in a Fringe-sized package. There are so many characters, so many subplots, such a variety of relationships, alliances, double and triple crosses, that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up. The audience can certainly keep up with things on an intellectual level, but the characters often get lost in the shuffle. Character development is skimpy, and the rapid influx of contradictory information (he’s nice, no he’s a killer, but wait, he’s a nice, conflicted killer) flying past as the plot twists pile up make it hard for a viewer to latch onto anyone they feel is worth rooting for, or saving. The characters who seem the most sympathetic are the ones who are the most quickly dispatched (in all senses of the word).
Some more breathing room in the time frame of presentation might have allowed for a little more depth. The script seems to want to imply that greater depth and explore it, but the lack of time makes such a quest a luxury the script can’t afford. So instead the script goes about its business of twisting and turning and heading for that final standoff. Despite, or perhaps because of, all its strangeness, Thin Mint is…
Their website – boyscoutbite.wordpress.com
Their video trailer Their Fringe-For-All preview Fringe 2009 – 7:00 Sunday – show #20 Matthew A. Everett is a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at matthewaeverett.com.
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