Theatre Review: Was Mary Magdalene a Fag Hag?

Posted by Wayves volunteer 11/04/2013

 Garry Wiliams and Michal Gaty appear in Williams play, Jesus Is a Faggot.

By Bobbi Zahra, for Wayves

Was Mary Magdalene a fag hag? You’re probably not going to get a satisfactory answer to this question by going to MenzBar to see Garry Williams’ latest, Jesus is a Faggot.  I’d be surprised, though, if you didn’t come away with lots of questions you’d like to discuss with others.  The title of the play seems almost designed to provoke Christians – certainly, the evangelical right.  And yet, my experience of the first performance on April 10th was, as we used to say in theology school, somewhat transcendent.

My initial expectation of the play was that it might be an (arguably well-deserved) indictment of the treatment by Christianity in general (and some traditions, in particular) of the LGBTQ community.  I’m not usually pleasantly surprised to discover how very wrong my assumption about any given thing might have been.

The timing of the play is interesting – it wasn’t intentional, Williams says, but the fact of the matter is that this work, which contains plenty of overt (and some not-so-obvious) Christian imagery, is being presented during one of the most important parts of the year for Christians – it’s the middle of the Christian season of Lent, leading up to the day upon which Christians understand that Jesus was crucified.  This is key – remember that when you see it.

Williams has written a play that he, himself, calls a love story.  And it is.  There’s a bit of a ‘bromance’ happening here; we’re treated to a canoe trip in which one character insists to the other that although he has no idea where they are, he knows they’re not lost.  Sounds like life, actually.

There’s a great deal of wit in this play – some of it is sly, some of it resonates with ‘in’ jokes (and you could tell that the opening-night audience really ‘got’ that), and some of it is physical.

Williams himself, who plays Andy, brings a wry humour and tenderness to his role.  Michael Gaty, an Ottawa native who studied theatre at Dalhousie University in Halifax, shines.  Quite simply, he shines: he is an excellent actor who I hope has a very long future in the profession. Williams continues to demonstrate with this play just what a fine writer he is, and the fact that he is able to bring the audience on this journey, in such a sparely-designed set (just a mattress and a couple of drapes, really) and create with such poignancy, honesty, and humour, pictures of what it is to love, and to be other, is a beautiful thing to see. 

Bill Wood, known as a performer, comedian, and magician, also demonstrates a deft and subtle hand in directing the play and has certainly made it possible for the actors to inhabit the stage in a way that allows the audience to almost – but not quite – be together in that apartment with them.  Listen closely when the ending music begins – I missed the start of it and wished that I hadn’t.  Lee-Anne Poole chose Perfume Genius’s “Hold You (In My Arms),” and it is the perfect piece here.

The only thing I didn’t like about this play is that right now, the little company is getting ready to take it to the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival at the beginning of May, so you have limited time to see it.  It plays April 11th and 12th at MenzBar on Gottingen, and you would be doing a very fine thing for yourself to make the time to see it. 

Williams did tell me, though, that he and those involved with it do consider it still to be a work in progress.  It may change a bit, and if we’re lucky, we’ll get a chance to find that out for ourselves at the Atlantic Fringe Festival, when – if the Fringe programming committee does its usual excellent job of choosing the shows that are performed – we’ll get a chance to experience it anew in a few months.

Jesus Is a Faggot plays Friday, April 11th, and Saturday, April 12th, at MenzBar on Gottingen Street.  Showtime is 8:00 p.m., and tickets are $10.

Editor's Note: Bobbi Zahra is mostly a theologian, always an ally, and a great appreciator of excellent writing.  She lives and works in Halifax, where she is often very outspoken but only rarely wreaks havoc. 

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