nytheatre.com review by Charles C Bales
August 11, 2012
As you enter the mainstage of Soho’s HERE Arts Center, a cavalcade of scantily dressed go-go boys grind their pelvises to pounding dance music as they direct you to your seats. Such is the realm of Gay Camp, the screamingly funny FringeNYC show that is completely and utterly over the top — as it should be.
In hopes of eliminating their same-sex attractions, Anton (a flaming queen-to-be), Joshua (a decidedly less afire budding homo), and Susie (a seemingly innocent six-year-old girl with a Cindy Brady-esque lisp) are shipped off to the not-so-ironically named Camp Acceptance to be “cured” of their homosexuality. Hijinks ensue.
A trio of talented thespians wear many hats — well, wigs, actually — as the gay threesome, a constantly texting hetero teen couple who are camp counselors, a stern headmistress with a secret, a motorcycle-riding Ms. Fix-It lesbian, an intolerant neo-con father, and a long-dead mother who seems patterned on The Wizard Of Oz’s Auntie Em.
Crude, lewd, and full of ’tude, Gay Camp is a frothy mix of the sexual orientation satire But I’m A Cheerleader and the Sondheim-obsessed musical theater camp movie fittingly titled Camp. The jokes are flung fast and furious and the script by Phillip Mutz and Susan-Kate Heaney is fresh, funny, and decidedly queer. Note to the puritanical — this is not the show for you.
There are, however, a few minor missteps. Some of the tongue-in-cheek vocal interludes that accompany the set changes fall flat. The running Santorum jokes grow a bit stale after repeated usage. And the production as a whole would be better served if the movable screens onto which video is projected were moved further back on the stage for better visibility for the entire audience.
But the performers — part Charles Busch, part Brüno — are all fabulous. Christian Mansfield commands the stage as the flamboyant Anton (né Anthony). Co-writer Philip Mutz conveys just the right amount of gumption as the blossoming Joshua. And Ken Urso is hilarious as both the pint-sized Susie and June, the volatile headmistress of Camp Acceptance who is trying to tamp down her own sapphic tendencies. All three of the actors also play multiple roles, including Mansfield and Urso as the gleefully inept camp counselors.
Gay Camp revels in its own naughtiness instead of taming its baser instincts, running an energetic 75 minutes under the swift direction of Phillip Fazio. The show delights in sending up the absurdity of the ex-gay movement, also taking on such hot-button topics as companies with anti-gay agendas and closeted Hollywood celebrities. It’s hysterical. And with a title like Gay Camp, it should be.