Faggots and Puzzies and Queers, Oh Dear!
By Community Reviewer Mickey Weems
There is nothing like a good farce.
A farce is a theatrical term for comedy that is outlandish and often physical, which perfectly describes Black Faggot and Puzzy. The two performances shown bare-to-back at Kumu Kahua Theatre on opening night, March 30, were indeed outrageous and unabashedly physical. Interspersed among bursts of humorous repartee and occasional moments of gravitas were copious scenes of people having full-on same-sex sex (but not exclusively same-sex sex) - albeit with their clothes on - complete with grunting, screaming, and assumed mock cumming. The combined effect of both performances was a celebration of the absurdity of human sexuality and the tenacity of human dignity, a tried and true tradition of Queer folk for centuries.
Black Faggot is the story of young gay men of Samoan descent in Aotearoa. Along with the slapdick humor, however, there is another kind of farce - as in deceitful charade - lurking throughout the performance: having to pass as straight to appease Fundamentalist Christian intolerance. Keeping the tension between comedic farce and religious farce is a tough nut to crack, but the actors pulled it off with panache. The series of quickies (both in terms of serious scenarios, flirtations, and boots-knocking) left little time for the burden of religious guilt to suck the energy out of the play. Likewise, the play did not mention HIV/AIDS. It is rare to enjoy a Triple-G-Gay performance (of anything besides porn) that does not reference this disease.
The cast of Black Faggot was all-male, although not all the multiple roles played by each actor were male roles. The intimacy of Kumu Kahua Theatre, which has maybe 200 seats that go right up to the stage, allowed the men of Black Faggot to fully connect with the audience as they adopted a dizzying array of personae, including father/mother and son, daddy and younger man, rentboy and john, two bar tricks, and friend and friend.
Of the two plays, Puzzy was the most ambitious in terms of staging, incorporating a DJ (complete with booth), puppet show, and smart-phone hook-up app as it explored the trials and tribulations of a Hawaiian woman in O‘ahu trying to make her way in the dating scene. Puzzy also had the harsh undertone of Christian homophobia and explicitly preposterous sex scenes. A bigger issue for Puzzy’s all-female cast, however, was fluidity in sexual identity rather than the either-straight-or-gay dynamic informing Black Faggot.
Five actors were in Puzzy, with four of them forming a chorus in the Greek sense during key moments of the performance. The flavor of Puzzy was totally O'ahu, primarily townside, enhanced by the soundscape of DJ Nocturna, a regular in Honolulu’s Chinatown music scene as well as KTUH, UH Manoa campus radio station. What was most entertaining about Puzzy was dramatic representation of what some consider to be the scourge of the contemporary dating scene: menu-selecting prospective dates from one’s phone. Another fun tidbit: the only “man” to actually speak was literally a puppet.
When the Audience is Part of the Performance
One of the joys of attending the opening night for Black Faggot and Puzzy was having the authors in the audience. I could not see Kiki (Puzzy) too well from where I sat (she was also partially hidden behind several lei), but Victor Roger (Black Faggot) was right in front of me, obviously enjoying himself throughout both plays.
The audience also amplified the hilarity. There was a significant Pacific Islander presence who audibly and visibly showed their appreciation for the many Samoan and local Hawai‘i references. They (or should I say, we) were especially boisterous during the sex scenes, which no doubt fired up the actors engaging in the shenanigans. I had as much fun with my fellows offstage as I did watching those onstage. And this might be a problem if these highly entertaining works ever go to places without a significant Pacific demographic - I am not sure if the witty dialogue translates sufficiently for a completely Palagi/Haole audience.
There is always the issue of message: Is the goal of the playwright titillation, education, or consolation? Thank God, Black Faggot and Puzzy limited their scope to titillation and just a touch of consolation - there was no need to educate that night’s crowd about the evils of homophobia. Damage from homo-hating was recognized, but the actors did not wallow in it overlong. Thanks to everyone involved for giving us the opportunity laugh rather than cry, to enjoy the absurdity that only a good farce can deliver.
Credit goes to Victor Roger, author of Black Faggot and the proud owner of perfect hair, and his cast: Bailey Campbell, Eric Combs, Jason Kanda, and Ryan Okinaga. And Brava! to Kiki, creator of Puzzy in collaboration with Roger, and the cast: Lelea‘e Kahalepuna-Wong, Kristen Labiano, Kalia Ongolea, Kelli Pagan, and Michelle Umipeg. Props also for directors Taurie Kinoshita and Donna Blanchard as well as the staff of Kumu Kahua Theatre.