nytheatre.com review by David Pumo
August 15, 2004
In the world of gay theatre (and film and television, for that matter), so heavily overpopulated with pretty white boys and their sex lives, a story told from any other cultural perspective is always worth a look. Rich Kiamco’s one-man show, Unaccessorized, about his own life as a gay Filipino from the cornfields of Illinois, is a sparkling, warm, and funny journey of-self discovery told by an overachiever who shows no signs of slowing down.
Like my favorite solo performers, Lily Tomlin and John Leguizamo, Kiamco’s work here, directed by Dan Bacalzo, is highly physical, almost an athletic event. He’s really working hard on that stage, and it’s impossible not to be impressed. The movement, from pantomime to dance and gymnastics, is precisely choreographed. The music and sound effects, designed by Mike Degen, are subtle and tightly synchronized. The results are quite professional, and a cut above what you’re used to seeing off-off Broadway.
A self-proclaimed nerd, high-schooler Rich also embraced the New Romantics of the eighties, dressing like Duran Duran, Culture Club and Flock of Seagulls all at the same time. He came out to his parents, who told him that they loved him and would find a cure. Naturally, he got on a local teen talk show and came out to all of Chicago. Bucking his parents’ dreams of medical school, he followed his own dreams to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology, or, as Kiamco has it, “Faggots In Training.”) Working for two years as Judy Tenuta’s designer, he eventually segued into her love slave/go-go dancer/drag queen sidekick, Miss Saigon, following her to Vegas and the Howard Stern Show.
There are other chapters in the journey as well: a design gig ending in a lawsuit; a short-lived relationship with his wealthy Austrian “soul mate”; and a life-affirming trip to the top of a rock in Sedona, Arizona, in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert drag. All of it is fun, though sometimes I wonder if the focus gets a little lost. The best autobiographers tell a story with a beginning, middle and end, taking liberties with the facts, when needed, to make them work as theatre. Leguizamo, for instance, liberally changes the details about his own family from show to show to fit each new narrative thread. The story here works best when it focuses on Kiamco's own trip, and his parents’ as well, from rigid cultural and religious expectation to a more opened and colorful self-understanding and acceptance. It’s a story we can all relate to, filling in our own cultural particulars. But most of all, it’s a story told with great style and warmth by an overachiever I know I’ll be keeping an eye on.