The collection of gay characters in Bill Nelson's Tales From Gaydom 2, a sequel to its big brother from last year, presents a group snapshot that only slightly reflects this diversity. The first three pieces offer a gay house husband and his responsibly employed partner; then an everyday Joe whose amnesia has conveniently excised his gay life from his memory; and finally a defrocked minister who pleas for tolerance as he eulogizes his ex-boyfriend. The last installment in the quartet, an hour-long musical called "Fag Hag," is a vaudevillian return to the belief that a guy in a dress is inherently funny. Whatever Gaydom means, half of it involves wigs and extraordinarily large pumps.
The show is not without potential. Nelson's writing has some backbone ("When something is true, wear it like clothes," one character says), and he can see an idea through from conception to realization. This is especially the case in the evening's first playlet, "Lover's Game," which includes a dizzying three-minute rendition of The Sound of Music, performed by Christopher Gleeson, with a punch to the gut at its conclusion. "Wearing Black," the ex-minister's monologue, has poignancy as well as memorable images of a man whose honesty is seen by others as a sickness.
But there are also clichés, conveniences and completely baffling sentences that elicit groans or blank stares. Though "One Past Too Many," about the amnesiac, is reportedly based on a true story, it can't decide if it's a melodrama or a parody. Successful at neither, it's just a muddle. And though "Fag Hag" may be the piece most deserving of further development (as long as its title character is played by the charming Marcie Ramirez), it seems to have come to Nelson and his accompanist Laurie Schwab last week. The night I saw it, actors repeatedly fumbled lines and cues, barely getting this painfully under-rehearsed contraption -- which seemed to be held together with Scotch tape and high hopes -- across the finish line.
Director Robin Delaloye gets performances from her cast in proportion with the experience documented in their bios. One actor writes that his theater experience involves having been to a play or two -- and it shows. Another, whose results are a little sturdier, speaks of his "awakening theater bug." The troupe's disparate abilities recall the "Let's put on a show" gusto of an old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musical, where everyone just tapped their troubles away -- which is so gay. And that may be the point.