The thin red line

WHO’S YOUR  DADDIES? | William Marshall Warren plays a cross-dressing orphan in this new satire.

Musical parody ‘Trannie’ toys with controversy but (sort of) rises above it

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer

It’s amazing how two little letters added to a word can make such a big change. By taking the legendary Broadway musical, Annie, and putting a simple “TR” in front, a small-town theater has created a parody that will forever change the way you look at cute little red-headed moppets singing about mañana.

Despite what a lightning rod the mere word “trannie” is to controversy, in the context of this new musical, it’s a necessary evil in order for the whole gag to succeed. It’s never made completely clear whether the title character is transgender or a transvestite, but the orphan’s search for her two dads and meaning in the world defies most labels. Except funny, which would apply wholeheartedly.

Tucked away in a tiny theater that looks like an old garage in Grapevine, Ohlook Performing Arts Center is just the kind of place you want to see pregnant teens dancing about and singing a song called “It’s A Knocked Up Life.” The fact that it’s BYOB and has late-night-only showtimes makes the cheap admission even more enticing. And what’s not to like about a show where the length of intermission is only as long as it takes patrons to use the single public restroom? Two members of our party were even asked to go pee behind a trailer so the show could go on.

Written by Matthew Lord and directed by his wife, Jill Blalock Lord (yes, this comes from a straight couple), the show has genuine moments of inspiration and some truly demented lyrics. It’s got the high-school-drama-club charm of a single piano accompanying the singers, but it’s that homespun quality that keeps the X-rated dialogue that much more off-kilter. Taking place at Unplanned Parenthood, a gay bar called The Manhole and Hooker’s Alley, and with musical numbers like “STD,” “Sleazy Street” and a newly imagined “Tomorrow,” it’s full not just of showstoppers, but pretty solid parodies.

In the lead, William Marshall Warren is a wisp of a man, but he infuses Trannie with just enough heart and old-fashioned gumption to elevate the whole thing to something with a sincere message and not just pondering. Sure, some people may not find the joke as funny as others and some may be put off by the low-budget production, but in the end, it does exactly what every small theater company should do: Experiment. Take risks. And make sure there’s at least one sight gag involving anal beads.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

Not-so-straight acting

Comedian Jason Kane loves show tunes and cats — so why isn’t he gay?

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

HOMO NEUROTIC | Kane’s has accepted himself as a straight man — not that there’s anything wrong with that. (Rich Lopez/Dallas Voice).

Tucker’s Blues, 2617
Commerce St. Aug. 17–19.
7 p.m. $10.

Jason Kane isn’t kidding himself: He knows when a man proudly talks about his collection of original Broadway cast recordings, the season finale of Kathy Griffin and his two cats, he should expect to be gay-tially profiled as family. He’s one Bette Midler concert shy of legally irrefutable proof of queerness.

Only Kane is straight — and that throws everything off kilter.

After a 12-year stint in New York (and sometimes Boston), Kane has returned to Dallas. He was doing the budding stage actor bit in the Big Apple, but when he found himself couch-surfing with a healthy dose of uncertainty, he headed home to regroup. Without wasting time, Kane has revamped his show Why Am I Not Gay?, which begs the question this week at Tucker’s Blues in Deep Ellum.

“I’m probably one of the gayest straight men out there,” he says. “I’ve performed this show in New York and Boston but coming back, I have to ask the question again.”

When he talks incessantly about being a “completist” and how that demands his need to have every version of the cast recording of Les Miserables (Broadway and London casts), then yeah, this question might come up. But is it fair to rule a man as gay just because his two pets, Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer are named after felines in Cats, or that some of his interview replies are done in song?
In his show, Kane deconstructs his own life to figure out what the hell happened. While doing so, he keeps score between “gay” and “straight” labels with tic marks and sings along the way — what better way for a hetero to prove he’s not a homo than through a Sondheim medley?

He tries to justify it.

“I would have no reason to be in the closet,” he says. “I’ve had gay friends for a long time. I sing ‘What Can You Lose?’ from Dick Tracy and a couple of Elton John songs, but I throw in some Barenaked Ladies and the Rolling Stones!”

Kane isn’t trying to laugh his way out of his admitted fondness for Erasure and Madonna and his ease of use with terms like “bear,” “twink” and “homo.” Instead, his show may say more about his audiences than just his funny look at his own professional and personal life. Why Am I Not Gay? takes a peek at the contrasts between gay and straight — which, according to him, are few.

“I think part of the show conveys the message that we really aren’t that different,” he says. “What we do in the bedroom is the only real place we diverge. The more I do theater, the more I realize that you can’t pin the tail on the homo donkey so easily.”

He’s reluctant to compare his high school experience to the gay experience, but he finds some parallels in “not being the cool guy” or being the weird theater dude. Even his parents broached the issue when Kane committed to a life in the theater. Weirdly enough, you could say the misidentification of Jason Kane gave him the gay youth ritual without being gay.

But Kane’s moved past his younger travails and he’s just working with what he’s got, which resulted in creating his own show alongside musical director Daniel Ezell. He’s just going for the laughs where he can get them.

“I know audiences will get the jokes and maybe even relate to them,” he says. “And I know, like in the past, some people will come up and say, ‘I’m still not convinced.’”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas