WINDY CITY TIMES
||NEVER THE STRAIGHT MAN Playwright: Mark Gagne
by Rick Reed
This article shared 2359 times since Wed Aug 8, 2001
How one receives comedy, and performance in general, is a personal thing. Mark Gagne, writer and performer of a new show as part of Live Bait Theater's annual festival of solo performance pieces, Never the Straight Man, has been on the Chicago comedy scene for the last decade, yet I've never had a chance to see his work, either as a performer or a writer. Since his new show takes his audience with him on his journey toward self-acceptance as a gay man, I thought the show would be right up my alley. After all, since Gagne and I both share artistic sensibilities, a presumed love for comedy, and even the same general age, I was certain the show would have lots for me to admire. Those facts, along with Gagne's resume of teaching and performance work around Chicago and before that, in Boston, I thought, would virtually assure me an evening of empathetic mirth.
While Gagne's tales of adolescent angst and young adult strife as he struggled to come to term with his gay identity did hold a few laughs, overall the show was a disappointment. Uninspired, plodding along at an unimaginative, strictly chronological pace, and never really saying much of anything, Never the Straight Man was never fully engaging, or amusing. As I said above, comedy is a personal thing, and maybe it's just me, but Gagne failed to make me laugh much, and that's really what it's all about, especially when Gagne's show was really more of a wannabe stand-up comedy act rather than a performance piece.
The show lists a director, Sharon Evans, but her contributions seemed nearly non-existent. Other than some lighting changes, and having her performer move around the stage for no apparent reason and sit on a stool, then a chair, there was no strong directorial presence.
And Gagne's delivery could have used some prodding. Perhaps the show would have been more lively if Gagne himself could have mustered up some enthusiasm for his stories of gay persecution, misfired prom dates, temp jobs, first love, and working in theater. But Gagne was stiff throughout, speaking in a carefully enunciated monotone throughout his piece. This kind of deadpan works for people like David Sedaris ( who could have worked magic with this material ) and Steven Wright, but it doesn't for Gagne, who doesn't have the force of personality of those two performers.
Perhaps if Mark Gagne could decide what point he wants to make about his gay experiences, the show might have a better chance of having an engaging hook. Until he does, this rather pedestrian collection of stories offers nothing worth seeing.
This article shared 2359 times since Wed Aug 8, 2001
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