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Studio Theatre, 1501 15th Street NW
Sunday, July 17, at 8 p.m.
Sunday, July 24, at 4:15 p.m.
They say: Emotions and laughs fly as six men discuss life, lust, and love while bursting into songs traditionally sung by women of musical theater in a gay men’s support group.
Ben’s Take: For once, the promotional description matches the execution in this jukebox of a gay support group by Arlington’s Dominion Stage. Written, directed, and led by Patrick M. Doneghy, That’s What She Sang takes a handful of classic show tunes with female leads and puts them in the voices of gay men at various levels of maturity. The support group, Gay Men Meeting in Earnest, goes by the shorthand “Gimme”unsurprisingly then, the first number is “Gimme, Gimme” from Thoroughly Modern Millie.
The story isn’t too complicatedreally, it’s the same story at three different stages. At the young end are Ethan (Ethan Slater) and Darius (Darius Tyrus Epps), young, flamboyant, and queenish. Patrick (they all use their first names in the show), whose long-term boyfriend is mostly unseen, is a few years older and deeper into his relationship. Chris (Christopher Gillespie) and Malcolm (Malcolm Lee) are middle-aged, perhaps married, but clearly the most advanced couple.
Enter Dave (David Moretti), the middle-aged, recently divorced, and freshly outed blue-collar guy actually in need of a support group. As the older man who spent most of his life in the closet, Moretti’s arc isn’t too different from Christopher Plummer‘s in the film Beginners. Finally out, he’s looking to act on his long-sequestered homosexuality.
Not that Patrick’s group is a hook-up spot; really, it’s couples’ therapy more than anything. Chris and Malcolm are at odds over Chris’ lavish treatment of their dog, Lola. Of course, a riotously vampish rendition of “Whatever Lola Wants” from Damn Yankees ensues. Malcolm’s response, a spotlit performance of Billie Holliday’s “Mean to Me,” is stunningsinging as any gender, the man’s got pipes.
But more than anything, That’s What She Sang seems born out of a bunch of actors’ desire to use Fringe as a clever excuse to goof around with show tunes and stereotypical characters. Slater, only a rising sophomore at Vassar College, is always ready with a feisty barb as the show’s resident queen bitch, but he and the buttoned-up Moretti get over their discomfort with each other by the end. It’s really not too far off the advice given in The Producers: keep it happy, keep it snappy, keep it gay.
See it if: You’re sick of high-school students on television doing all the singing.
Skip it if: Theater is serious business and you can’t be bothered by breezy diversions.