The dynamics of male friendships for a long time were a bit of a black hole for artistic and entertainment industries with movies and tv very rarely diving deeper than buddy cops. But as terms like hyper-masculinity and toxic masculinity have entered mainstream vocabulary, works like Fag/Stag have emerged to mine the emotional depths behind grunting and backslaps.
Written and originally performed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs, Fag/Stag takes a brief glimpse into the friendship of Corgan (Samson Alston) and Jimmy (Ryan Panizza) in the lead up to their mutual friend’s, and Corgan’s ex-girlfriend’s, wedding. Structured as a dual-narration with the men dipping in and out of recounting and recreating the story, the three months covers the breakdown of Jimmy’s long term relationship, Corgan’s hang ups about his past relationship with Tamara, and an unexpected hookup that blurs some boundaries Corgan would have rather kept firm.
The theatrical design of this production was pared back with little in the way of set or technical design, keeping the focus on the two characters and the way they retell their shared story. Les Solomon’s direction gave the production a rapid pace and off-handed tone that played to the actors’ strengths and lent their performances a “catching up with friends” atmosphere.
Alston’s Corgan is a boys boy. Think muscle tank, goofy grin, beers on the weekend. But he is struggling with something that he finds difficult to communicate and that makes him a bit more reserved than you might expect. Jimmy, on the other hand, is confident and assured and not hampered by the male veil of silence that many straight men are. Panizza’s performance is engaging, well-timed, and easy to watch. The two characters have known each other a long time and Alston and Panizza have the comfortable dynamic of two men who grew up together.
Fowler and Isaacs’s script is short but very witty and the two actors delivered it convincingly. Not every problem between Corgan and Jimmy gets resolved in this glimpse of their lives but it rolls along with the undulations of the men’s long and resilient friendship.
Fag/Stag is running at El Rocco from February 22nd – March 7th as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras
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