I Love You, (We're F*#ked)
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
February 26, 2011
Kevin J. Thornton is in his late 30s, gay, boyishly handsome; says he's on the crest of a midlife crisis. For his solo show I Love You (We're F*#ked) he's wearing a cowboy hat, boots, white shirt and black tie, and casual pants; but every once in a while, we can glimpse part of a fairly elaborate tattoo on his chest, and that, I think, is what defines him. Thornton's a little bit country, but he's also a little bit naughty. And his show is both of those things and more—a very personal, quirky journey through his experiences and his mind, his comic sensibility and his music. He's an enormously likeable performer, and a talented one, and I hope this show—and others that he may do in the future—proves successful.
Press materials tells us that Nashville has been his home base for a while, professionally. In the show, he talks about growing up in the Bible Belt (on the buckle, he says) and how it felt, during the Bush years, to be so aware of his other-ness as a gay man in such conservative territory. He also tells us about his time working in a teen Christian rock band; an early crush on a boy named Cory; his recent breakup with his boyfriend (he had moved to West Hollywood by this time); and his sojourn to the Midwest to regroup after that breakup.
The shape of the show is loose as can be. He sings some of his songs, which are all quite lovely; some of them return, leitmotif-like, to accent different anecdotes and stories as the show proceeds. Sometimes he puts his guitar on the ground and engages directly with us in the audience. And, at least at the performance I attended, he seemed to rearrange his material to suit the tenor of the crowd (that Saturday afternoon time slot didn't seem to attract as many of his target audience as would be desirable, his target audience essentially being people about his age and sharing some of his pop culture iconography and sensibilities—people who'd get a joke built around one of Prince's song lyrics, for example). He's an easy fellow to root for and to listen to.
What makes him different from any other performer I can remember seeing is an essential tension in his personality, or at least in his persona—that wild tattoo underneath the tame clothes. He half-apologizes that some of his stories are really dirty, and then he plows ahead and tells them anyway. It never feels like shock tactics, but rather simple, honest expression.
I Love You (We're F*#ked) doesn't feel like a title that ultimately does this solo piece justice (it is the name of one of the songs that runs through the show). And I would be interested to see what would happen if Thornton tried to actually create a play with music for himself rather than work within the formless half-standup/half-singer frame that he's using here. I think he's got a playwright's voice as well as a poet's and a musician's. He's certainly a performer I'll want to keep an eye on.
So, check out this modest but considerably charming entry in this year's FRIGID New York Festival. Thornton's a welcome addition and I hope he builds the audience he deserves.