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January 4, 2005

Theater Review: Homo for the Holidays

“Homo for the Holidays” is the “Vagina Monologues” for gay people. It’s thought-provoking, painstakingly honest and refreshingly amazing. It’ll make you laugh, clap uncontrollably and cry. The play is great because it’s real, and raw emotions almost always work on stage. It’s that deer-in-headlights feel that makes great reality shows so watchable.

The story behind “Homo for the Holidays” and how it came about is the driving force behind why this original Pandora Productions play is something everyone should experience for entertainment — or a lesson in tolerance and acceptance.

A year ago, 12 actors got together and wrote for eight hours in two days about the trials and tribulations of being gay or knowing someone who is, and what it’s like to go home for the holidays to families who haven’t quite accepted their way of being. The writings and discussions were then put together in a stage format by a creative team, and Gayle King wrote the accompanying music. What Pandora created was an honest and emotional reflection in story and song about the ever-changing definition of home, something anyone can identify with.

Last Thursday’s performance, with a turnout of more than 100, made for the biggest opening night Pandora Productions has had in its 10 years, according to producer Michael J. Drury. Considering it was a holiday weekend, that’s a fairly significant accomplishment for any local theater company.

The show opens with all nine actors on stage, each holding a candle while explaining their particular homosexual credentials: a Christian woman who’s gay, a gay black man, an older white woman with a debilitating condition whose best friends are gay, and so on. They each present dishes and smells that remind them of Christmas and tell stories of what the holidays used to be like sitting next to grandma or grandpa and being pinched by adoring aunts.

From there, it’s monologue after monologue about growing up; these can inspire a person to look past stereotypes. It’s the black man wondering why he isn’t attracted to other gay black men, a young woman exploring her father’s drug addiction and live-in boyfriend, another woman’s first real and earth-moving kiss with a girl. The things they share make you sit back and wonder, “Are they really saying these things out loud?” These are the stories that don’t get told.

The pace is fast, the music is good and the acting is convincing, maybe because, in a way, these actors aren’t acting. They’re sharing their lives with strangers and baring their souls on a stage for the world to watch. Above all else, this is courageous.

The set consists of nothing fancy. An oval wooden table is present, and a fake tree with gaudy plastic ornaments is dragged on stage. Ornaments are hung in the beginning, and removed as the honesty of not really having it all together starts to unfold.

There are 10 different chairs around the oval table and nine actors. The last chair is there in case someone shows up to eat dinner and listen for a while.
That chair is for you, Louisville.

Do yourself a favor and go see this play. It’s unforgettable.