BASH'd!- A Gay Rap Opera
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 10, 2007
Here's a headline that appeared today on MSNBC:
Church learns vet was gay, cancels memorial
Texas congregation acted out of principle, not malice, pastor says
(The whole story is here.) Occurrences like this are precisely the reason why a show like BASH'd! needs to exist.
Bash'd! comes to FringeNYC from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and is the work of actor/performers Chris Craddock and Nathan Cuckow. Assuming the personas of gay gangsta rappers T-Bag (Craddock) and Feminem (Cuckow), these two talented artists spin a tale of star-crossed lovers Dylan and Jack, a pair of very ordinary gay men who fall in love, marry (which is legal in Canada), and then are struck by sudden and unexplainable tragedy.
Of course the tragedy—gay bashing—is entirely explainable, at least in the context of contemporary society; what's unexplainable is that it is so explainable. Homophobia and hate crimes against gays and lesbians are too much a part of our culture still; Bash'd! tackles them both head-on, telling a story that's surprisingly affecting despite its inevitability and using a form—it calls itself a rap opera—that makes it at once accessible to a broad audience and innovative to boot.
Craddock and Cuckow portray Jack and Dylan, respectively, along with a cast of dozens of other characters, among them Jack's two gay dads and Dylan's parents (his father is rampantly homophobic). They deftly sketch life in the small town where Dylan grows up (where the only way to "be gay" is to leave) and in the clubs and gay bars of the big city. The language is uncompromising, raw, and sexually explicit. The entire show is rapped, with music by Aaron Macri and direction by Ron Jenkins: the rhymes are often clever and always on point and the energy is high and infectious.
Bash'd! is unabashedly activist, taking the idea of pride to another level by urging gays and lesbians to take ownership of their identities: it's a plea for human rights and equality and for an unrelenting commitment to achieve them; it's also, not so incidentally, an indictment of violence. I imagine that seeing a show like Bash'd! would be enormously empowering to a young gay man or woman struggling with his or her sexuality. I'd like to think it would also remind anyone else in the world who needs reminding that homophobia is bigotry of the worst kind and must not be tolerated.
Kudos to these audacious Canadians for confronting one of the last great civil rights issues of our time so fearlessly in a show that audiences can really respond to.