The Chronicles of Steve: the bossy bottom
nytheatre.com review by Micah Bucey
August 15, 2008
One of FringeNYC's Los Angeles imports, David LeBarron's one-man show wears its conspicuously queer title proudly. In fact, its humor might be lost on all but those pining for the return of a very specific type of old-fashioned queer solo performance. For the duration of its 60 minutes, I found myself intermittently charmed by its innocently randy nature and frustrated by its under-rehearsed sloppiness. In the end, The Chronicles of Steve: the bossy bottom is a mild diversion that, for better and worse, harkens back to the days of CBGB's Gallery and The Limbo Lounge.
The story is simple. LeBarron portrays Steve, a somewhat average, somewhat promiscuous gay man, living a somewhat typical urban life. He portrays scenes from Steve's present day, interspersed with abstract scenes of what appears to be Steve as a child, speaking to an unseen father, with whom he seems to have a somewhat less-than-appropriate relationship. There's not much more to the show than that, besides some off-color jokes and occasional glimpses of what would happen were LeBarron to decide to explore his subject even further.
LeBarron's performance as both young and older Steve and as a handful of other people in Steve's life mostly suffers from a general wash of swishiness substituting for true character development. He is not aided by Gordon Vandenberg's unsure direction. It is the overall lack of specificity that makes the show so maddening. One wonders how funny or subversive Chronicles could be if LeBarron and Vandenberg streamlined and tightened the piece into a leaner machine. The snippets of scenes never quite gel into either an overarching storyline or into a truly compelling study of their main character. What the audience is left with is a handful of somewhat tired clichés and not much else. This is unfortunate, for LeBarron seems like he would be a fun friend to have at a dinner party.
For those still shocked by jokes about sodomy, sadomasochism, dildos, and the like, Chronicles might offer some amusement, but in order for it to transcend its ragtag fringe grunginess, it should settle on what it means to say. Perhaps LeBarron wants the show to make a statement about gay life; perhaps the show desires to be no more than a raunchy return to the heyday of queer performance art; but right now, it isn't exactly successful at achieving either.